RAICES has responded to crisis and uncertainty before and during the current health crisis with COVID-19 we remain committed to the fight by providing critical legal, social, and advocacy services at this trying time. We do this while balancing the need to protect the people we serve, our staff, and our communities during this pandemic.
We aim to continue providing services to those in greatest need during this time and we are prioritizing the following:
- Detention legal services and advocacy
- Legal services for unaccompanied minors
- DACA services
- Legal consultation by phone
- Refugee resettlement
- Bond processing, if the government does not heed our request to release those in detention
Many of our legal staff work inside detention centers on a daily basis. We’ve established new protocols for their safety and will continue to serve in socially-distanced ways in those facilities (including through glass-pane stations). The United States has refused to parole or release asylum seekers in detention and has refused to delay immigration court proceedings for those in detention. So we will continue to fight alongside them, in an effort to keep them from being returned to violent and life-threatening conditions like poverty and climate change in their countries of origin.
Placed between a rock and a hard place, between the urge to completely quarantine and the knowledge that for many of our clients it is a death sentence to lose in immigration court, we refuse to stop fighting.
Our staff working detention centers have a front-row seat to the confinement, lack of medical care, crowding, and low access to cleaning supplies in these facilities. On March 14, we sent a letter to ICE asking for the immediate release of all detained immigrants. Can you imagine fleeing violence, seeking asylum in the United States, and then being locked up during a pandemic without the tools to keep yourself safe? We thank those who have already added their names to our letter. If you haven’t, we invite you to join us and add your name.
Our legal and social services outside of detention face a changing landscape as well. Here are some of the recent changes, with more changes sure to come:
- We are ceasing our walk-in legal consultations as well as in-person case management services at our RAICES offices. We are moving towards consultations by phone and are handling this on a city-by-city basis.
- We are halting bus station activities in San Antonio until further notice, using follow-up by phone with existing contacts.
- We are identifying community resources for RAICES clients in operating cities; prioritizing health resources, child care, employment services, and food assistance/food pantries.
- We are faced with a moratorium on refugee arrivals in San Antonio, requiring follow-up by phone only. We will be providing one time only food assistance for SNAP recipients for refugee families that arrived February 2020 to date.
- We are monitoring daily all local government responses and other social service agency hours for referrals.
As we take steps to protect those we serve and our staff while still fulfilling our critical duty to protect the wider community via work-from-home and social distancing measures, we ask for your compassion and empathy for those stranded in camps due to the horrible MPP policies. We ask for the wider public to remember those detained in poor conditions simply because they were fleeing violence and seeking asylum, and for refugees who are resettling here without the ties to family and community that many of us are fortunate to have.
As we all navigate this global pandemic, we may find ourselves separated by social distancing, borders, oceans, or even deeper chasms of understanding. It’s important to remember how much we are all connected, in ways both terrifying and beautiful, and how all of our lives are truly in each other’s hands.
The RAICES Team