Interfaith Toolkit to End Family Separation and Keep Families Together

June 2018

Background: Faith communities strongly oppose the administration’s policy of criminally prosecuting parents and forcibly separating them from their children at the U.S. border. As communities of faith, we call on the administration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to immediately terminate its family separation and “zero tolerance” prosecution policies that rip families apart and prevent family reunification. We also affirm that asylum seekers have the legal right to seek protection from persecution and violence under U.S. and international law and should not be detained for seeking refuge.

The administration’s new and unprecedented policy of systematically removing children, including infants and toddlers, from their parents is cruel and wrong. We reject increasing barriers to protection for asylum seekers and unaccompanied children, which impede our moral and legal obligations to offer protection to vulnerable populations. We reject raising the burden of proof for survivors of domestic violence or gang violence to access the asylum system. This change announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions  undermines the progress we have made strengthening access to the asylum system.

On June 20, President Trump signed an Executive Order pertaining to family separation. The order mandates that immigrant families be held in family detention. Instead of terminating the administration’s cruel “zero tolerance” policies targeting vulnerable families, this order undermines real solutions to family separation while continuing to violate the rights of refugees seeking legal asylum. In addition, family separation will persist, as any assigned jail time must be served in Department of Justice (DOJ) custody away from their children. Family detention is not a solution to family separation. CWS’s statement decrying the order is here.

On June 21, the House of Representatives rejected HR 4760, the Securing America’s Future Act, an anti-immigrant, anti-family bill that would have dismantled family-based immigration, expanded detention and deportation, and gutted asylum protections. On Wednesday, June 27, the House rejected HR 6136, the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act, another anti-immigrant, anti-family bill that would have done nothing to stop family separation. Instead, it would have tied dreamer protections with harmful immigration enforcement provisions, curtailed protections for unaccompanied children and asylum seekers, expanded detention of minors, and further militarized our borders. The House is considering a narrower proposal that could be voted on mid-July. Meanwhile the Senate is considering its own anti-immigrant, anti-family bills that do nothing to stop family separation.

Congress does not need to pass legislation to solve the child welfare crisis at the border. So long as the administration chooses to prosecute 100 percent of parents, their children will still be taken away. This practice is traumatizing and diametrically opposed to our faith traditions. For more information and ways to take action, click here. Take action today to decry family detention and the family separation that persists.

(Please note that on June 21, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official announced that they’re “suspending prosecutions of adults who are members of family units until ICE can accelerate resource capability to allow us to maintain custody.” The Department of Justice (DOJ) said the story is not accurate: “There has been no change to the Department’s zero tolerance policy to prosecute adults who cross our border illegally instead of claiming asylum at any port of entry at the border.”) Regardless of what happens, the administration’s goal is to cruelly detain and deport families. The alternative to family separation cannot be family incarceration. For more information on state of play, please visit: 

Eight Ways for Faith Communities to Take Action

(1) Call Members of Congress: Tell Congress to Stop Separating Families and Protect Family Unity

Click here to be connected to your 2 Senators and 1 Representative. Here’s an example of what to say: 

“I’m your constituent from [CITY/TOWN], and [as a person of faith], I urge you to REJECT anti-immigrant, anti-family legislation like H.R.6136, the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act; Senator Cruz’s Protect Kids and Parents Act; Senator Tillis’s Keep Families Together and Enforce the Law Act; or any other proposal that violates the sanctity of family unity. These bills do nothing to stop family separation or uphold family unity, as they dismantle protections for unaccompanied children and asylum seekers, expand detention and deportations, gut family-based immigration, and further militarize our borders. These bills do not offer a workable path to citizenship for Dreamers already living among us. Children and young people should not be used as bargaining chips to advance harmful immigration proposals. Congress should act to bring families together, not keep them apart.

I also urge you to oppose President Trump’s executive order on family separation that mandates family detention, without terminating the administration’s cruel “zero tolerance” policy that leads to the detention, criminal prosecution, and deportation of parents. Family separation will persist, as any assigned jail time must be served apart from their children. Family detention is not a solution to family separation.”

(2) Plan a Neighbor-to-Neighbor Visit to Your In-District Member Offices: Your Members of Congress will be home through July 8  – an important time to share the importance of protecting family unity. Establishing and nurturing relationships with your Senators and Representatives are crucial to enacting immigration policies that protect and affirm the rights of all people, and also to stopping proposals that would exacerbate family separation. Every Senator and Representative has an office – often multiple offices – in their home state. Use our Neighbor to Neighbor Toolkit to request meetings and put together a team. Here are some guidelines:

  • Get a team together: A team ideally includes faith leaders from different traditions, people whose lives have been directly impacted by the immigration system, people who volunteer or work teaching English, etc.
  • Learn about who represents your community in Congress: Visit and to find out which Members of Congress represent you and your surrounding community.
  • Have a plan: Meet with the other participants to assign roles, including the facilitator, the personal story, specific points, and the “ask.”
  • Schedule a meeting: Call your Member’s local office to request a meeting (local office numbers can be found on their websites). Make sure to tell them how many other faith leaders and community members would like to attend. If the member is unavailable, ask to meet with staff who work on immigration issues. You may have to send an email or fill out a form. Don’t be discouraged if you need to follow-up for a response.
  • Talking points and leave behinds: In this folder are some talking points as well as handouts to take to congressional meetings.

(3) Join and Support the June 30 Mass Mobilization in Washington and Across the Country: Click here to find events near you or to register your event. Distributed actions will be planned across the country.

Hosting events like interfaith vigils provide the opportunity for faith leaders to express how welcoming immigrants is part of all faith traditions, reflecting on the deep scriptural and spiritual roots of our work to support immigrants. Even small events, multiplied across the country, will send a powerful message to the Trump administration and Congress that upholding family unity and welcoming immigrants is moral issue that is important to people of faith and conscience. Click here to learn more about how to host an interfaith vigil.

Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) and partners created to connect volunteers to opportunities and resources. The site has a national volunteer opportunities guide, a page on national volunteer programs and other/local initiatives, basic legal information, and a calendar of trainings.

(4) Amplify on Social Media: Don’t forget to share the same message with your Senators & Representatives on social media! Click here for a digital media toolkit with sample social media posts and graphics. Use the hashtag #FamiliesBelongTogether #KeepFamiliesTogether and #ValueOurFamilies.

Here’s a sample post: Everyone knows that taking children away from their parents is wrong. #FamiliesBelongTogether and should never be separated. Trump and Congress have the power to stop the separation of families. Tell them to #EndFamilySeparation #KeepFamiliesTogether and to #ValueOurFamilies.

(5) Write Opinion Editorials for Local Media Outlets: Click here for a template op-ed. Publishing opinion editorials (op-eds) around Fourth of July is a great way to get the attention of your Members of Congress. But first, you need to write a piece that tells your story – not just the facts:

  • Keep it relevantUse Mother’s Day as your hook to draw the reader’s attention. Think of personal, meaningful stories of mothers and children you know.
  • Keep it short: Newspapers are most likely to publish letters to the editor that are short and make one succinct point (that is supported with facts or quotes from validators!). Check the newspaper you’re submitting to for a word limit. If you can’t find a limit, keep it to 150 words or fewer for LTEs or 750 words or fewer for op-eds.
  • Write from your own voice: Your piece is more likely to be published if it comes from your voice. Don’t be afraid to tell your and your family’s story and to appeal to the audience from the heart as well as the head.
  • Submit it to the newspaper: Submit the letter directly to the newspaper (most newspapers have an online submissions page) and follow up by phone or email if you don’t get a response within a week or two. Put the letter in the body of the email to make it easy for the editorial staff to read. As you submit your letter, don’t miss an opportunity to build a relationship with staff. To find local newspapers and submit your piece, visit:

(6) Sign the Petition: Click here to sign the faith statement against family separation led by Bishop Minerva Carcaño, of The United Methodist Council of Bishops on the issue of immigration on the Groundswell Platform.

Disciples of Christ Petition can be found here.

(7) Donate to your denomination or faith traditions that can direct resources to congregations doing the work on the ground to support families who are being separated and legal assistance for the children. Supporting our advocacy work is also more important than ever. You can donate to Church World Service, or you donate directly to organizations leading this work on the ground and nationally:

Contact a local Catholic Charities affiliate to learn about their material/volunteer needs, consider fostering an unaccompanied child, or join the Share the Journey global solidarity campaign with migrants and refugees.

For lawyers and organizations needing lawyers: If you are a lawyer, please join more than 1,000 lawyers who have signed up to volunteer to do legal work for immigrants separated from their children here. If you are an organization needing volunteer lawyers, please email Traci Feit Love, President and Executive Director at Lawyers for Good Government (L4GG), at

(8) Join and Support Upcoming Mobilizations at the U.S. Border:

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the policy change that is causing family separation?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is instituting a new “zero tolerance” policy and is choosing to prosecute asylum seekers and immigrants who are crossing the border at and between ports of entry despite the fact that seeking asylum complies with U.S. and international law. AG Sessions has also issued a new rule that individuals who faced domestic violence and gang violence would not qualify for asylum, another immoral decision inconsistent with court rulings. As a result, asylum seekers and other families are not being given the opportunity to apply seek protection, but rather are being turned away leaving hundreds of families stranded with no place to turn.

In addition, DHS CBP is separating families at the border at and in between points of entry – even if they are seeking asylum at ports of entry. The lead plaintiff in the American Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit against the separate detention of parents and children is a Congolese woman who entered the U.S. legally with an asylum claim and was separated from her child for months.

Furthermore, reports indicate that some asylum seekers are being turned away at official border checkpoints and physically blocked from setting foot on US soil, which would give them the legal right to pursue an asylum claim.

How many children are being separated?

This past month, Reuters found that more than 1,800 children were taken from their parents from October 2016 to February 2018. Under the Trump administration, their zero-tolerance policy has ramped up family separations at the border and other ports of entry. According to the Washington Post, from May 21 through June 5, there were 415 separations. The reckless nature of the policy is having psychological and heart-wrenching effects on families, particularly young children while the number of children forcibly seized from their parents continues to grow.

What happens to the children?

According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008, unaccompanied children from non-contiguous countries (i.e., not from Canada or Mexico) are processed by DHS’s Customs & Border Protection (CBP) and then referred to the care and custody of another agency (Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement) that is the best position to offer safety in the best interests in the child. Children in ORR custody may be placed with family relative or other sponsor, placed in community-based residential care, or other secure facilities, while the children’s case is adjudicated before a judge. Although the family separation policy is relatively new and therefore many of the deportation cases are still in process, reports from the Texas Monthly, and others indicate that some parents have been deported while their children remain in the United States.

What happens to the parents?

Parents are being transferred from DHS CBP or Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) to the Department of Justice (DOJ) custody to be criminally prosecuted for migration related offenses. Parents have been sentenced in mass trials without an opportunity to know where their children are or if they will have an opportunity to see them again before being removed from the United States. Because these parents are usually sentenced to time-served within weeks, they are quickly returned to DHS custody – adult immigration detention – for expedited removal, unless there is a claim for asylum. If there is an asylum claim, the parent may remain in long-term adult detention, separated from children. If deported, they will likely be barred from re-entering the United States for several years.

Can the parents be reunited with their children?

Parents are supposed to be reunited with their children before they are removed from the United States, but right now, it appears the administration is NOT ensuring the parent has this opportunity. Multiple reports over the last month describe parents in despair after their children are abruptly taken by DHS, sometimes using deception, and with little to no information on the whereabouts of children, how to communicate with them, and with no plan for family reunification. The only apparent path for children to reunite with their parents is to voluntarily return to their country of origin and abandon their asylum claims or other opportunities for immigration relief.

As the Executive Director of Tahirih Justice Center, direct service provider, recently described:

“Sometimes they will tell the parent, “We’re taking your child away.” And when the parent asks, “When will we get them back?” they say, “We can’t tell you that.” Sometimes the officers will say, “because you’re going to be prosecuted” or “because you’re not welcome in this country” or “because we’re separating them,” without giving them a clear justification. In other cases, we see no communication that the parent knows that their child is to be taken away. Instead, the officers say, “I’m going to take your child to get bathed.” That’s one we see again and again. “Your child needs to come with me for a bath.” The child goes off, and in a half an hour, twenty minutes, the parent inquires, “Where is my five-year-old?” “Where’s my seven-year-old?” “This is a long bath.” And they say, “You won’t be seeing your child again.”

How can I take action?

The most important immediate steps you can take is to get educated, advocate with your legislators, engage with social media and traditional media, and mobilize or participate in a local action in your region.

Where can I go to take action?

The most strategic locations will be local ICE offices, CBP / Border Patrol offices, your local Representatives and/or Senators office, and or other central federal buildings or ICE or CBP detention centers. Consider talking to local legal service providers to attend mass trials to show witness and support if they are in your region. There could be planned actions in border regions and/or in Washington, D.C., in the future. TheFamilies Belong Together coalition is planning a national mobilization for June 30th.

Where not to take action?

ORR holding facilities are not the problem agency, as they are helping process children to have an opportunity to fight their case. Targeting for direct action would be more strategically placed on ICE offices, Border Patrol offices, ICE or CBP detention centers, and the Department of Homeland Security.

Where can I find some of the stories of family separation?

Here is a compilation of of news stories of the children separated from their parents or caregivers. Here is the latest horrendous story of an infant taken away as his mother was breastfeeding. Here are some images taken of families facing separation at the border. You can also listen to children who have been just separated from their parents at the border. Here’s a video with case examples.

  • According to Nick Miroff of the Washington Post, Marco Antonio Muñoz, a Honduran father who was separated from his wife and child, committed suicide while in detention. Muñoz fled violence in Honduras.
  • A 3-year-old boy was taken from his mother at the border and was inconsolable during his flight away from her to Michigan where he met his foster family. He refused to change his clothes or shower and clutched a drawing of his father. He has trouble being alone and constantly asks when he will see his papá.
  • An 18-month-old baby girl is being fostered by Bethany Christian Services and was separated from her father who was detained. Her foster parent notes that she cries frequently especially when she changes settings.
  • 5-year old José was taken from his father after they arrived at the U.S. border in El Paso. His foster mother reports that the first few nights he cried himself to sleep and recently he moans and moans as he tries to fall asleep. He keeps a stick-figure drawing of his family underneath his pillow.
  • Silas, a foster parent to four children who have been separated from their parents, shares that in the 2 ½ weeks since the kids arrived, only one has been able to locate and speak to their parent. The kids constantly ask Silas when they’ll see their parents again. 8-year old Jefferson shared that his mom cried and yelled when they were separated.
  • A 7-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy have been separated from their mother for months. The children remember every detail from the separation; the 7-year-old shared that she cried and begged to be with her mother and was struggling going to school because she was terrified of never seeing her mother again.
  • 6-year old Will watched as his father was taken away 6 months ago.  Every night before bed, Will says his prayers and kisses the photos of his mom and dad and then hours later wanders out of his bunk bed and stands outside the door of his foster parents’ room, crying and saying his stomach hurts.
  • Abel, an 8-year-old from El Salvador was separated from his grandmother, his sole caretaker. He was placed in a shelter, and his grandmother was taken to a detention facility, where she was held for two weeks and then deported. Abel has since struggled to talk and trust authority figures which has led him to have difficulty working with his immigration attorneys.

Is legislation necessary for the administration to immediately stop separating families at the border?

No. The administration can terminate the family separation policy without congressional action. Prior to this new policy, families were not systematically separated at the border. In a small number of cases, children were taken from the adults with whom they arrived, when there were questions of potential human trafficking, danger to the child, or false claims to parentage. Because this is a policy change made by the administration, the administration is equally authorized to end the policy, as fact-checkers report from the Washington Post to the New York Times have made clear.

Does the recently proposed House bill end the family separation policy?

No. Last week, reports emerged that Speaker Ryan’s draft immigration bill would end the family separation policy. As reported last week, the leaked text of the 255 page bill contains no provision to end family separation and that claims otherwise are a “lie.” Under the proposal, Attorney General Sessions would remain free to continue his zero tolerance policy which results in family separation.  

Where can I find CWS statements against family separation and anti-family, anti-immigrant legislation?

CWS Strongly Opposes Family Separation & Urges Congress to Protect Family Unity

CWS Statement Opposing Border Security and Immigration Reform Act

CWS Statement Opposing H.R.4760, the Securing America’s Future Act

Trump Executive Order Fails to End Persecution of Immigrant and Refugee Families

Why is family detention and family separation a false choice? Why is family detention not a solution to family separation?

Women’s Refugee Commission and numerous others have long documented the harm of family detention, even for short periods of time. Reports like Locking Up Family Values and Locking Up Family Values, Again (written in collaboration with LIRS) documented the trauma and harm of family detention. Since family detention was widely expanded in 2014, numerous Members of Congress and Senators have opposed the practice, as has the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) own Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers. Administrative complaints documentedsexual assault in family detention centers, as well as the traumatic impact of family detention and the absence of meaningful mental health and medical care.

Will there be a litigation strategy?

The Attorney General of Washington state, Bob Ferguson, announced that Washington will join a coalition of nearly a dozen states in filing a lawsuit against the Trump administration over its “zero tolerance” policy of separating immigrant children from their parents during border crossings in between ports of entry. The other states that are joining with Washington in the lawsuit are Oregon, California, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota.


Faith Statements

A compilation of faith statements condemning family separation is available here.

Faith Leaders Decry Family Separation 

Interfaith Immigration Coalition Opposes House Immigration Bills 6-19-18

USCCB, A Statement from Daniel Cardinal DiNardo 

United Church of Christ 

Church World Service

United Methodist Church 

Christian Reformed Church of North America

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints 

Faith Opinion Editorials and Media Coverage

Time Magazine: Rev. John McCullough, CEO of Church World Service

Red Letter Christians, Kelsey Hebert, Christian Reformed Church of North America 

NPR: Faith leaders Oppose Trump’s Immigration Policy

MSNBC: Bishop Michael Curry, Episcopal Church/ Rev. William Barber III, Poor People’s Campaign 

Washington Post: Catholic bishops call Trump’s asylum rules ‘immoral,’ with one suggesting ‘canonical penalties’ for those involved 



United Methodist Church Slams Family Separations, Calls Trump Policy “Antithetical to the Teachings of Christ 

Jesuit Conference, Kino, Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, 11 Jesuit law schools: 

Additional Resources from Partners

For more resources, please click here.

Women’s Refugee Commission & KIND: Family Separation at the Border

Women’s Refugee Commission: Five Actions You Can Take to Help End Family Separation and Support Families 

The Flores Settlement & Family Separation at the Border

Women’s Refugee Commission on Family Detention 


Stories of family separation compiled by the Immigration Hub

Dos and don’ts” on messaging prepared by Berlin Rosen

Penn State University Law School 

Justice for our Neighbors 

Families Belong Together Coalition

Kids in Need of Defense

Medical Professionals Agree: family separation at the border can be detrimental to the future health and well-being of a child. The following medical and child welfare experts have expressed opposition to Trump’s policy: Physicians for Human RightsAmerican Academy of PediatricsAmerican College of PhysiciansAmerican Psychological AssociationNational Association of Social WorkersNational Society for Adolescent Health and MedicineAmerican Medical Association, and Child Trauma Research Program.

10 Reasons Why Congress Must Defund ICE

UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) 

Human Rights First: The Trump Administration is Putting Up a “No Vacancy” Sign 

“Zero Tolerance” Cruelty: Separating Families at our Southern Border 

Immigration 101: Why is the Trump Administration Separating Immigrant Families And Detaining Immigrant Children?

House Republicans’ Immigration Bills Would Hurt Women and Children

What’s Happening to Families at the Border 101

Fact-Checking Family Separation

Immigration Court Appearances Rates

American Academy of Pediatrics: Detention of Immigrant Children

AAP Statement Opposing Family Separation

Former U.S. Attorneys have called on the administration to terminate Sessions’ zero tolerance policy:

Non-restrictive, community-based alternatives to detention (ATDs): 

Family Case Management Program: For more information about the Family Case Management Program, please visit:

Letter Signed by 350 Organizations Opposing H.R.6136, the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018:

Letter Signed by 200 Organizations Opposing H.R.4760, Securing America’s Future Act: 

ACLU: The Tried-And-True Alternatives to Detaining Immigrant Families 

America’s Voice: Compilation of Reasons Family Detention is Harmful 



UCC Litany on Family Separation

A Litany for Families Being Separated at Our Border and Those Entangled in the Violence

For the past and violence sown

that made land unlivable,

societies unstable and

economies unsustainable,

may we confess and repair:

The exploitation of people and extraction of resources by force,

by violence and by ecological destruction,

We confess:

Creator have mercy and unite us in justice and repair.

For the trade policies and privatization of resources

that “legalized” the displacement of indigenous people

and brought ruin to farmers and communities,

especially in Latin America,

We confess:

Jesus have mercy and unite us in justice and repair.

For military violence in sovereign nations

and the manipulation of governments,

guerilla groups and whatever else served the U.S. Nation State

at the expense of the peace and security of our neighbors,

We confess:

Spirit have mercy and unite us in justice and repair.

For the present suffering

and the assault on the Image of God

and humanity of every person,

may we repent and rise up:

For the children suffering the trauma of separation,

who will struggle with attachment and trauma

for their whole lives because of their inhuman detainment;

Creator have mercy,

may we repent and rise up.

For the parents and adults

who have died by suicide, who are contemplating suicide,

who are being killed by medical negligence,

who will suffer with trauma and PTSD

because of the inhumanity of family separation and the denial of legal asylum claims, whose bodies manifest the anxiety of being detained and isolated,

having nowhere to turn and no one to help,

Jesus have mercy,

may we repent and rise up.

For LQBTQ persons who are not being adequately recognized,

cared for or protected,

and for the mother whose breasts grow hard and painful with milk

because her nursing child was ripped from her arms,

Spirit have mercy,

may we repent and rise up.

For the systems we have built and maintain that make violence more efficient

let us make a stand, risk our own bodies and disrupt

in the name of Justice and Love.

Toward the politicians and law makers

who make lies and propagate racism and fear

and their colleagues who are too cowardly to stand up for justice and truth, 

let us make a stand, risk our own bodies and disrupt

in the name of Justice and Love.

Toward the media propagating polemic oversimplifications

and diminishing the stories and humanity of people

or who are using power for profit and distraction

rather than truth and transparency,

let us make a stand, risk our own bodies and disrupt

in the name of Justice and Love.

Toward the business leaders who are profiting on violence, racism, incarceration

and the unlawful detention and separation of families

by building detention centers and bidding on government contracts

tied to this inhumanity and violence,

let us make a stand, risk our own bodies and disrupt

in the name of Justice and Love.

Toward the ICE officers physically detaining people

and using their hands and bodies to separate families,

who destroy their own soul and humanity

while diminishing the humanity of others by their work and actions,

let us make a stand, risk our own bodies and disrupt

in the name of Justice and Love.

For the future, which will only be full of life and justice

if we are bold and courageous enough

to demand and make it together now,

go with us Holy Spirit in the strong name of Jesus.


Written by the Rev. Tracy Howe Wispelwey, Minister of Congregational and Community Engagement, Justice and Local Church Ministries

Copyright 2018, Justice and Local Church Ministries, United Church of Christ, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH  44115-1100.  Permission granted to reproduce or adapt this material for use in services of worship or church education.  All publishing rights reserved.  


Disciples of Christ Resources

Link to “Family Separations:  A word to the Church” national sign on letter from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ):

Click here for regularly updated resources from Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries about how you can:

  • Learn and Pray to End Family Separation and Detention
  • Hear How Disciples and Faith Partners are Responding
  • Act to Help End Family Separation and Detention

Read reflections here from Rev. Terri Hord Owens on the Biblical emphasis on love in Romans 13.

Rev. Terri Hord Owens, Disciples GMP and other faith leaders, speak. 6/7/18

Read Rev. Terri Hord Owens’ statement and a national press release with testimonies from other speakers, or listen to the audio recording from a Press Call Honoring Immigrant Moms, and Protecting Immigrant Families. 5/9/18

Disciples of Christ has a border ministry near McAllen, TX., called Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries.  They are donating space at their Bayview campus and helping with coordination for church groups coming down to be part of peaceful protests, accompanying immigrants requesting asylum, and seeking access to detention centers—including for the 6/28 protest planned in Brownsville, Texas.


The Vera Institute of Justice launches Phase One of the Immigrant Connection Project

Are you working with a parent who was separated from a child upon detention

The Unaccompanied Children Program of the Vera Institute of Justice is launching Phase One of our Immigrant Connection Project (ICON) to help parents and children who were separated upon apprehension by immigration authorities to begin to reestablish contact and assess their legal options as a family.

Vera’s network of legal service providers provides detailed legal screenings for every child in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Nevertheless, the separation of families and the great difficulty in locating parents have raised unprecedented challenges for our network’s ability to assess children’s legal options. Through ICON, Vera will serve as a clearinghouse for parents and their advocates looking for children who were separated and detained apart from each other. Vera will connect parents with the legal service providers working with their children, thus enabling families to work together to make decisions about their rights and their future

How to contact us:

  • Preferred method to use during Phase One: email or Include any of the following that you have:
  • Child’s Name
  • Child’s A#
  • Child’s Date of Birth
  • Child’s Nationality
  • Child’s best Language
  • Child’s Gender
  • Parent’s Name
  • Parent’s A#
  • Alternatively during Phase One: call 646-530-3500 and provide the information listed above.

How will it work: We will collect your information, search for a match, and contact you with the result of our search. We will address all requests as soon as possible, but responses may not be immediate while we put our systems in place.

When we identify a parent-child match, we will inform the legal service provider working with the child that his or her parent has been identified and is looking for him or her. The legal service provider will then reach out to the parent or representative to establish contact. In some instances, Vera will be able to provide the parent or parent’s advocate with the name and contact information of the legal service provider. If no match is made, Vera will retain the information and run regular checks to see if a match can be made at a later time.

Vera will not share any information about the child’s location or other personal information. Our network of legal service providers will work with the children to confirm that a match has been made and then initiate communication with the parent. Vera does not have the ability to effectuate direct contact between separated parents and children – all separated parents should continue to work through the Office of Refugee Resettlement processes to directly communicate and reunify with their children.

Coming Soon: We will launch a webform to collect this information, so matches can be made as quickly and efficiently as possible. We also hope that submission of the webform (or a phone call through the hotline) will assist parents seeking additional legal services (e.g., representation, assistance with bond hearing, assistance in paying for a bond that has been granted, etc.

Cautionary note: ICON is a work in progress that Vera is launching in phases to begin effectuating communication between parents and the legal service providers working with children as soon as possible. We will formalize our process in the coming days and weeks. Our network of legal service providers who will respond to inquiries about children will work hard to connect with the parents as quickly as possible, but their resources are limited as they continue to provide services to a high volume of children coming into ORR custody while taking on this additional work. Your patience and feedback are very welcome. Please contact Shayna Kessler (, (917) 828-1753) with questions about the project.

Additional Resource: if you are working with a child who is looking for a parent from whom he or she was separated, RAICES’s new program to locate the parents of separated children may be able to help. Please click here for their intake form.