A picture is worth a thousand words, and sometimes an image strikes such an emotional chord in us, we absolutely must act to correct a horrible wrong.
On June 12, 2018, Getty and Pulitzer Prize winning photographer John Moore captured a moment at the U.S. – Mexico border, which has become the catalyzing image for Americans, opposed to the Trump Administration’s policy of separating immigrant families, seeking asylum.
Mr. Moore’s photo of a two-year-old Honduran girl, terrified and sobbing, as a Border Control agent searches her mother, quickly went viral. The picture is deeply moving; I still get very emotional when I look at it.
It has been used by a multitude of online and print publications, including Time magazine, to symbolize the furor over President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy at the border.
Mr. Moore admits openly that this experience with this little girl and her family has had a lasting impact on him. He told NPR, “I do not know what happened to them. I would very much like to know,” he says. “Ever since I took those pictures, I think about that moment often. And it’s emotional for me every time.”
Enter Charlotte and David Willner, former Facebook employees, and caring parents.
On June 14, just two days after Mr. Moore’s now iconic photo, this Silicon Valley couple set out to raise $1,500.00 via Facebook, to help at least one family, suffering from the policy of family separation.
According to the Willners, all the proceeds, nearly $21 million, went to The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services , a non-profit, legal-defense organization in Texas, that provides legal services for immigrants and refugees, at low, to no cost to its clients – typically, women and children seeking to escape unspeakable violence in their native countries.
This past July, RAICES communications officer Jennifer Falcon told Slate.com, that since receiving the money, “We’re bonding out at most 15 people a day, and it sometimes takes days and several trips to [the Department of Homeland Security] to be able to post bond for somebody.”
Remarkably, this bounty of $21 million at RAICES’ disposal will only be enough to bond out about 2,000 mothers; and that process will take more than a year.
But the Willners have certainly helped to raise awareness as well as a fortune, and RAICES is no longer operating in obscurity.
Most refugees arrive at the border penniless, after a very difficult journey to the U.S. border, only to be arrested and incarcerated.
They must rely on charity for any type of assistance.
Fortunately, many Americans, after reflecting on the human suffering of these refugees, are inspired to donate an enormous amount of time, energy, and money to help.
Such humanitarian sensibilities are squarely behind The International Rescue Committee, whose founders, supporters, and staff, are engaged in the most noble of work on behalf of refugees, globally.
The Importance of Experience in Immigration Court
Yet, without an experienced immigration attorney, immigrants or refugees taken into custody for illegal border crossing, have almost no chance of winning their day in court.
Upon their arrest, unlike American citizens, they have no right to free legal counsel.
While many attorneys are willing to work pro bono to represent these asylum-seeking detainees, immigration law is very complicated.
Success for one’s client requires not only special expertise, but also a network of experienced attorneys, support staff, and volunteers to assist with basic logistics.
I am very honored that RAICES has reached out to me periodically in the last year, seeking assistance on a couple of cases. But I was also quite prepared to provide solid support.
Families Helping Families
I have been practicing immigration law for 34 years, and during that time with the help of my colleagues, I’ve built a remarkable team.
When I accept a case, I have the resources to conduct a full and rapid analysis of the facts, and corresponding case law.
I can instruct volunteer attorneys how to prepare motions and other filings to the court.
Some cases require my volunteer attorneys to drive 2-3 hours one way, to remote locations, for no money, to provide counsel to an immigrant at a detention facility.
Within my network, I also have volunteers to pick up immigrants upon their release from a detention facility, if they have no one else.
Others in my network are able to secure donations of food and clothing.
None of these people is paid a dime for their efforts. But we are all tied together, and we all care deeply and want to help.
Mother Teresa once said very few people are capable of doing great things, but all of us are able to do small things with great love.
Remember this when you see someone in need and you are able to help.
If you or someone you love needs an experienced immigration attorney, please email me at DAVIDACALIN@DAVIDACALINLAW.COM.
My team and I have the passion and experience to help you.