It’s hard to believe that tomorrow will mark a year since the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project officially launched. Four seasons have passed, during which we have worked tirelessly to end family detention, urging the Obama administration to stop detaining thousands of children and their mothers – a decision that stains both President Obama’s own legacy, and the history of this country.
Together, the four CARA partner organizations have soldiered on over the past year. Staff members have put in innumerable hours to create new processes, hundreds of volunteers have come and gone, but one thing remains the same: family detention is an inhumane practice and must end.
The CARA Project has served 7,935 mothers over the past 12 months. Nearly 60% were under the age of 30 and nearly 30% were younger than 25. Eight hundred and sixteen were under 21. Think about that. Things were so bad for these young women, many of whom aren’t much more than children themselves, that they fled everything they knew and left behind nearly everything they owned, to save what was most precious to them: their children and their lives.
In its first year, the CARA Project conducted an average of 134 intakes per week – that’s 134 new clients to calm, to counsel, and to reassure that they and their children are not alone. The entire project team, those on the ground and those offering remote assistance, is an army of brave warriors ready and willing to help 134 new clients per week in their journey to safety.
In order to help those thousands of clients, thankfully, we had more than 700 volunteers who traveled to Texas to work side by side and face to face with these vulnerable moms and kids. Our volunteers were lawyers, paralegals, translators, clergy, teachers, nurses, social workers, and the list goes on. AILA members invited friends, neighbors, and grandchildren to come and help translate. They reached out to their churches, their synagogues, and their community centers to spread the word about what was happening and find volunteers to help out.
It has been absolutely amazing to watch the CARA Project continue to grow and strengthen, to see it build on its successes, to translate the data and information gleaned from client cases and use those case examples to force change. Medical complaints were compiled and escalated, mental health concerns were investigated and shared, and the particularly difficult plight of indigenous dialect-speakers was brought to light. Through media outreach and advocacy, there has been progress on a host of issues. But, family detention is still happening; and it must end. Shame on our government for inflicting more suffering on these desperate refugees.
To all of you who have helped, either via the remote teams across the country or through direct representation on the ground, you have my deepest respect. My heartfelt thanks goes out to the staff on the ground (the OTGees) who make sure this project moves forward each day and ensure that the families know we are there, ready to help them. And gratitude in advance to all of you who are future volunteers and may not even know it yet! It is in our hearts and in our blood to help vulnerable victims of abuse.
The AILA Board of Governors authorized $200,000 in 2016 so that we can continue to fight for these helpless families. Please, continue to step up and defend families from the inhumane and terrible actions that our government sadly refuses to repudiate. Please, stand for these families despite the full force of the federal government ramping up to further target them. Please, raise this issue with the public, with the press, and with your congressional representatives to help us end family detention once and for all. We are on the right side of history in this shameful period of our country.
Written by Victor Nieblas Pradis, AILA President
How can you help?
If you are an AILA member, law student, paralegal, or translator, who wants to volunteer at a family detention center, please go to the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project page – we could really use your help.
If you would like to donate funds please see the American Immigration Council’s page dedicated to the fundraising effort.
To watch videos of the volunteers sharing their experiences, go to this playlist on AILA National’s YouTube page. To see all the blog posts about this issue select Family Detention as the category on the right side of this page.