The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Legal and Education Services (RAICES) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees. Services provided by RAICES include affirmative, defensive, and litigation services to low-income immigrants and social services such as case management, resettlement assistance, a national hotline to connect migrants with local community resources, and transit support for recently released migrants. RAICES works tirelessly not only providing services to those who do not have access to them but also advocating for immigrant rights through campaigns, protests, and lobbying tactics.
My role as a community outreach intern is to assist in the development of outreach strategies and engagement plans for community partnerships and community members, to assist staff in scheduling community events, and to develop packages for outreach events. Additionally, I took the initiative to join the lobbying committee at RAICES for one of their local campaigns that aims to end the 287(g) agreement that enables local county sheriffs to act as ICE agents, which leads to racial profiling and lack of trust between the community and police officers. Through our organizing tactics, we hope to influence the judges and commissioners who are in charge of renewing programs like the 287(g) agreement that are a threat to the undocumented community.
RAICES’ mission is to promote justice for immigrants. Currently, there are racist programs in place like the 287(g) agreement that harm the immigrant community. Though the judges and commissioners are the ones that have the power to end it upon its renewal date, we do our part by lobbying and getting the media’s attention. RAICES took it upon themselves to invite the conservative county judge, Judge Whitley, out for lunch last year and have a civil conversation about why he should suspend the program. Though he turned his back against the immigrant community and voted to extend the program, RAICES fought back by bringing in community members at the commissioners court and speaking on why the program should end. Attached below is a picture of three young women who spoke at the commissioners court on why the judges should end the 287(g) program.
Abolishing ICE out of the county jails is a small step towards abolishing ICE as a whole. In fact, abolishing ICE also ties in with defunding the police, which is another movement that has gained support recently after police brutality has increased throughout the past few years. Black and brown communities, like the ones I am advocating for, are in danger under law enforcement. Instead of protecting the community, they are harming them and killing them through racial profiling, hyper-surveillance, abusive stops, problematic searches, and unwarranted detention. I’ve worked this summer and will continue to work to accomplish my organization’s mission by amplifying immigrants’ needs, which are often basic human rights. Progress for the RAICES community looks like starting programs that aid the community and suspending programs that harm the community. The DACA program renewal on June 18 was an example of success for the immigrant community. Although we won the DACA renewal battle, we still have a long fight ahead of us. The battle does not end here.