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Five Ways to Help Migrants at the Border and in San Antonio


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As the photo of Oscar and Valeria Martinez, the drowned migrant father and daughter, circulates, and news from the border gets worse each day, some find it hard to sit back and do nothing. Reports of unsanitary conditions in detention centers, a lack of adequate food and bedding and the separation of families have been in the headlines for weeks. Border patrol agents are turning away those who try to donate diapers and toothbrushes. But there are still ways to help.

Because of San Antonio's proximity to the border, it hosts a number of service organizations that directly serve migrants from a number of countries.

Interfaith Welcome Coalition was established in 2014 as a direct response to the number of unaccompanied children traveling north from Central America. Today the organization assists at-risk immigrants by meeting them at the Greyhound bus station or at the airport, and provide a full list of their rights, ICE check-in and court date details. Volunteers also hand out supplies and have the opportunity to host families overnight in their homes before the migrants continue on their journey. The coalition hosts monthly meetings on the second Thursday of every month at 10 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church.

American Gateways provides immigration legal services to low-income individuals. They provide pro bono legal representation at four immigration detention facilities, and represent their clients before the San Antonio Immigration Court. The organization relies on volunteer attorneys, and is currently seeking attorneys to assist women detained at the Hutto Residential Center. People who aren't attorneys can also volunteer for a number of services such as translating, performing psychological examinations, doing outreach at events or performing administrative duties.

The Center for Refugee Services is a nonprofit agency established to promote the integration of resettled refugees into the San Antonio community. Their all-volunteer staff provides ESL and citizenship classes, assists refugees with enrolling in the SNAP benefit program, tutors high school students, assists with FAFSA and college applications, provides job training, and many more services. You can volunteer to teach a Friday sewing class, drive a refugee to their doctor appointment, teach a music lesson or mentor a family who is overwhelmed with the resettlement process.

RAICES is a nonprofit agency that provides legal services to immigrant families and individuals at a low cost. It has offices across Texas, including in Austin, Dallas, Corpus Christi, Houston and San Antonio. It has four offices in San Antonio alone, two of which offer walk-in appointments for services relating to unaccompanied children, DACA and resettlement. There are a number of volunteer opportunities, including accompanying an asylum seeker to an ICE or ankle monitor check, meeting migrants at the bus station or even just working as an office assistant. They are hosting a panel discussion on July 9 where members of the community will share their experiences of navigating the immigration process as a woman.

The Migrant Center for Human Rights provides free or low-cost legal representation to immigrants facing deportation from the US. They work with people who are detained in the South Texas Detention Complex and the Karnes County Correctional Center. In addition to representing asylum seekers, they also submit bond and parole requests, help prepare people for asylum interviews and help migrants understand how to write an appeal. Attorneys can volunteer to take a pro bono case, and the organization also works with volunteer counselors, psychologists, law students and translators. 

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