Story by Diana Saleh. Video by Isabella Montague. Photos provided by RAICES.
Dallas Doing Good has had the privilege of partnering with the Communities Foundation of Texas for North Texas Giving Day over the past few years, but this year, we are doing it Texas BIG. It is the 15th anniversary of the largest community giving event in the nation, so we have selected 15 organizations to highlight leading up to Giving Day on September 21. Early giving kicked off on September 1.
In the heart of Texas, an organization known as RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) has been tirelessly working to reshape the narrative around immigration in the United States. With a rich history dating back to 1986, RAICES has evolved and grown, becoming a source of hope and support for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. As North Texas Giving Day approaches, let’s delve into the inspiring story of RAICES and their impactful work.
RAICES was born out of a profound commitment to justice and compassion. In the mid-1980s, the organization emerged from the Sanctuary Movement and in response to immigration policies that created insurmountable legal barriers for Central American refugees seeking safety and freedom in the United States.
Originally founded as a small two-person team in a modest San Antonio office, RAICES has flourished, expanding its reach and influence across Texas and the nation. The driving force behind RAICES is a belief in a country where everyone, regardless of their background, has access to legal and social services. Their mission centers around legal representation being crucial to keeping families together and free.
RAICES is the largest immigration legal services provider in Texas, with offices across the state, with offices in Dallas and Fort Worth, as well as San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Corpus Christi, and Laredo. They take on over 10,000 substantive affirmative and removal defense cases each year, providing vital legal services to individuals and families. Additionally, they offer support to unaccompanied minors in federal shelters, ensuring they understand their rights. RAICES also plays a pivotal role in the resettlement of refugee parents and children, providing a lifeline to those seeking safety and a new beginning in the United States.
RAICES recognizes the power of storytelling in changing public perception and influencing policy change. They understand that real change begins with altering public attitudes and perceptions. By sharing the voices and experiences of those impacted by the immigration system, RAICES aims to create empathy and understanding, paving the way for more compassionate immigration policies.
One of RAICES’ remarkable initiatives is its bond assistance program. This program has significantly impacted the lives of immigrants and their families. RAICES has paid over $19.6 million in bonds since 2018 to release asylum seekers from detention centers, allowing them to reunite with their families and seek asylum in a more humane way. This program provides financial support and a glimmer of hope to those trapped in detention.
RAICES understands that immigrants in rural areas face unique challenges, including limited access to basic services. To address this issue, they established the Rural Legal Services Program in 2021. This program focuses on helping immigrants in rural areas, particularly survivors of domestic abuse, providing them with essential legal support and a network of assistance. By doing so, RAICES empowers survivors and helps them lay down roots in their new communities.
RAICES believes that community engagement is key to creating lasting change. They actively involve volunteers and donors to support their cause. As part of their “Back to School” drive, they distributed nearly 1,440 backpacks to student clients across Texas, highlighting their commitment to serving the community.
Looking ahead, RAICES envisions a society where the rights of all people to migrate are respected, and human rights are guaranteed. Their goals for the future include providing high-quality services grounded in the lived experiences of their service recipients, empowering and educating immigrants and allies, and sharing human stories that showcase the diversity of immigrant experiences.
RAICES’ unwavering dedication to advocating for immigrant rights and reshaping the narrative around immigration in the United States is nothing short of inspiring. As we approach North Texas Giving Day, let’s celebrate the incredible work of RAICES and consider how we can contribute to their vision of a more compassionate and just society for all.
If you’re inspired by RAICES’ mission to champion the rights and well-being of immigrants, you can get involved and make a difference in several meaningful ways. Consider volunteering your time, skills, or resources to support their initiatives. Donations, whether big or small, can go a long way in providing legal assistance and relief to those in need. Additionally, spreading awareness about RAICES and the challenges immigrants face in the United States can help reshape public perceptions.
By taking action and standing in solidarity with RAICES, you become part of a collective effort to create a more compassionate and just world. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in North Texas and beyond.