Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Charitable Groups’ Requirements Raise Eyebrows of Immigrant Advocates

A controversy is ensuing in Texas as some advocacy groups are taking issue with the verification processes required by certain charities that distribute holiday presents to underprivileged children.  Among the requirements in question, some charities are checking the immigration status of families that solicit help, whether it be that of the parents or of the children.

The Salvation Army, for example, is asking that parents provide birth certificates or Social Security cards for their children.  Lorugene Young of Outreach Program Inc., a non-profit group that distributes toys for the Houston Fire Department, said that the purpose of the documentation is not to punish any children, but to verify that their parents are citizens, legal immigrants, or in the process of becoming legal residents.

Some charities also say that they require proper documentation to ensure that they are distributing help appropriately.  “We want to be good stewards, so the people that are donating to us trust we’re going to do the right thing,” said Sonya Scott, manager of care ministries at West Houston Assistance Ministries.  While not all organizations check immigration status, they may ask for proof of income or the children’s birth certificates, measures which are intended to prevent misrepresentations or fraud, according to Julissa Guerrero Chapell of Catholic Charities.

The notion of screening recipients based on immigration status is causing concern for immigrant advocates in Texas.  “It is very disturbing to think a holiday like Christmas would be tainted with things like this,” said Cesar Espinoza, executive director of America for All, a Houston-based advocacy group. “Usually, people target the adults because the adults made the decision to migrate, where the children are just brought through no fault of their own.”

Several charities in Texas are working to distribute toys to needy children this holiday season, and many of them do not require onerous documentation to prove legal immigration status.  Regardless of protocol, all of these groups might do well to separate the immigration debate from the goal of making the holidays a happier time for underprivileged children.


Houston Chronicle Article