RAICES Using Millions In Donations To Pay Bonds, Beef Up Reunification Services

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A painted mural welcomes visitors to RAICES.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

A painted mural welcomes visitors to RAICES, located at 1305 N. Flores St.

When the Rivard Report visited the offices of the nonprofit Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services on Thursday, a number of people stood in line to speak to the receptionist while several others waited for their appointments.

The busy office environment has become the norm for RAICES, which had been quietly helping immigrants with various legal issues since 1986 but was thrust into the spotlight after a Facebook campaign intended to raise $1,500 to help detained immigrants on the border went viral and has netted the nonprofit more than $20 million. For a nonprofit that previously operated on a $6 million annual budget, the push to use those donations as quickly and efficiently as possible has been great.

Most of the funds have gone toward hiring attorneys and developing new initiatives to help serve the thousands of children who have been separated from their parents after crossing the southern U.S. border. RAICES staff includes around 50 attorneys, who currently manage caseloads of anywhere from 60 to 80 individuals and families at a time, with each case varying in complexity. Before the zero-tolerance immigration policy was instituted, a RAICES attorney might see up to five people. Now, it’s eight, with a subsequent increase in caseload.

However, many attorneys throughout the country have reached out to RAICES offering pro-bono work, which has allowed the nonprofit to strengthen the Family Reunification and Bond fund, geared toward covering the full cost of bonds to release parents. And the influx of donations has allowed that fund to extend outside the state of Texas.

The minimum bond set for a single detained immigrant is $1,500, but fees could be as much as $10,000.

“We are working to maximize the offers [to give] free legal services so that we can maximize the donations in general,” Katie Mullins, staff attorney with RAICES in San Antonio said. “If we have an attorney who is willing to work for free, we … can use that money to pay someone’s bond instead.”

RAICES also is depositing money in commissary accounts for detainees so they can call family members and begin the process of tracking their children. The nonprofit also is exploring options to provide transportation to clients.

Mullins said in many cases when immigrants are released from a detention center they are dropped off at a bus station in the middle of the night with nothing. 

“You can imagine for someone who was just locked up and doesn’t have anything – What are they supposed to do?” she said. “Without a bus ticket or a cell phone, they are stranded.”

Katie Mullins, RAICES staff attorney, works on paperwork in her office.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Katie Mullins, RAICES staff attorney, works on paperwork in her office.

On Thursday, RAICES announced a new initiative called the “National Families Together Hotline” to aid in reuniting families that have been separated upon entry into the United States. Callers can speak to one of 120 recently trained volunteers from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days week, and leave voicemails 24 hours a day.

“We have always been swamped, and we expect it will get crazier for everyone,” Mullins said. “[But] we are rallying to serve [immigrant families], whether its through an attorney at our office or scrambling to find a pro-bono attorney, and are working to provide more services at no cost.”

4 thoughts on “RAICES Using Millions In Donations To Pay Bonds, Beef Up Reunification Services

  1. RAICES, their hard-working volunteer network, and the donors who have rallied to provide funding in support of these families are manifesting the true heart and soul of American tradition. You are the real face of the USA in times when our friends were mourning its loss and our enemies were rejoicing. Thank you for your witness that it is alive and well in the people. “. . .For here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own”. (John F. Kennedy Inaugural Address, Jan. 1961)

      • You’re exactly right Ed. Let’s change the terminology. Immigrants aren’t illegal. Non citizens of the USA relentlessly entering illegally, are criminals. Their initial actions to even enter are illegal in this USA from which you benefit greatly. It’s not Mexico. It’s not Guatemala. It’s not Honduras. This land is the USA. If you want to come here, don’t break our laws. If you do commit illegal activity such as crossing into our country without permission, then you will be found and sent back to wherever you came from.

        Mexico is stolen land. USA is stolen land. Canada is stolen land. Every country in Europe is stolen land 18 times over. Guess what? Everywhere you look in history, one person stole something from another and made something out of it. Rise and fall of every nation. Name one nation, one culture, one civilization which started peacefully and continues today. Name one that started peacefully. You can’t. Not Mexican culture that’s for sure. Not before the Spanish or after the Spanish. The people in the land we now call Mexico (stolen land) were violent just like the rest of us. The Spanish and Portuguese were brutal in their violence. The people of Mexico have been pillaging, fighting, stealing and murdering just like the rest of humanity. It’s human nature to conquer, to expand, and to try to take what’s not yours. Including people entering this country illegally, trying to gain possession of something that is not lawfully or rightfully theirs. This land is the USA, and anyone entering illegally is attempting to steal land from the USA and should not be allowed to stay. If needed, we in the USA will be ready to fight to maintain our land and our borders. I will be ready to fight for them. We cannot sustain people entering illegally burdening the taxpayers further in a nation trillions of dollars in debt. We simply cannot handle the burden of people coming without permission even though we bring in more immigrants and refugees every single year legally.

        Stolen land. Give me a freaking break. Stealing land is exactly what you hope to accomplish.

        • Thank you, StandUp.

          As soon as someone uses “Stolen land”, it negates their entire argument.

          I just wished they cared as much for their fellow US Citizens as they do for people from other countries.

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