UPDATE: Efforts by the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law on Volunteer Opportunities to Help with Family Separations

Thank you so much for volunteering to conduct a site visit in Flores v. Sessions! I am so sorry that I was unable to get back in touch with you immediately. The original message you received I sent to just two private networks seeking 10-20 volunteers to add to our Flores team for one exceptionally large site. As everyone now knows, that message went globally viral. In the past week, I have been contacted by over 7,000 people and we have had over 5,200 volunteers register to help these children and their families.  To complicate matters, I was overseas for work when this happened and then almost immediately flew to the border interviewing Flores families, so I appreciate everyone’s patience with my lack of communication. Let me tell you the plan.

These site visits are ongoing and organized by the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law. Peter Schey is the president and lead class counsel for Flores and I am a law professor who specializes in international children’s rights and volunteers with the Flores team. The Center is trying to schedule site visits of every facility in the country where separated children have been sent so that interviews and inspections can be conducted. We have the right to do so as all of these children are clients of the Flores class attorneys.  A very important benefit of these site visits and one of the reasons we are trying to conduct so many so quickly is that these site visits provide an opportunity to document as many separated children as possible so that we can advocate for and trace their reunification with their parents, and, if needed, refer them to appropriate volunteers on this list for follow-up care.

The Center has been given access to the table of volunteers we created from your volunteer applications so that they can form the best qualified teams to conduct each of these site visits and interview the children to ensure compliance with the terms of Flores. Normally, Flores site teams are 6-12 individuals and two of every six individuals can be “child welfare specialists,” such as pediatricians, pediatric mental health professionals, social workers, et al. We prefer bilingual or multilingual professionals to facilitate the comfort of the child, but if we really need a certain professional, we can provide an interpreter. We have had hundreds of individuals fluent in over 30 languages come forward to volunteer; many are certified. In addition to matching professional expertise and language fluency on site teams, we are also trying to match volunteers regionally, so even though most volunteers will not be called to conduct the site visit to Casa Padre next week, many of you may be called upon to conduct a site visit of a facility closer to you. If you are selected and you agree to serve, you will be provided with training at that time. You will also have to undergo a background check and government clearance. Since we are trying to schedule so many teams so quickly in order to document as many of the separated children as possible, we might only be able to provide you 1-2 weeks’ notice. We need everyone to be patient.

As I type this, one of the leading IT companies in the country is designing a platform on a pro bono basis to manage the overwhelming volunteer support. That will probably be launched within 48 hours. My hope is that Peter and his team at the Center will contact you as soon as that platform is operating to tell you what next steps need to be taken so that you are ready to be assigned to a team or another volunteer role to support these children and their families. If you do not hear from anyone, please know that you may still be needed, and we will reach out as soon as that need is identified.

Until then, thank you for stepping forward and offering your time, energy, and expertise to help the separated children and their families. Regardless of what happens next, simply by stepping forward and raising your hand to hop on a plane and provide care for these children, you have already created a historical record that literally thousands of good and decent Americans came forward to care for these children, each in our own way, immediately upon learning that they needed our help. Thank you for being a shining light in an especially dark moment. Your simple act collectively may redeem a child’s view not only of America, but of humanity itself.

All the best,

Warren Binford

Professor of Law & Director, Clinical Law Program

Willamette University

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