Money

Here's where to donate to help migrant children and families at the border

A Mission Police Dept. officer (L), and a U.S. Border Patrol agent watch over a group of Central American asylum seekers before taking them into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas.
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A Mission Police Dept. officer (L), and a U.S. Border Patrol agent watch over a group of Central American asylum seekers before taking them into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas.

Since the Trump administration implemented a "zero tolerance" policy at the Mexican border in recent weeks, more than 2,300 children have reportedly been separated from their parents while attempting to enter the U.S.

The policy may be shifting. In response to international criticism from parties including all five living first ladies and the Pope, Trump said on Wednesday that he plans to sign an executive order that would keep families together while they are detained. It is not yet clear how the government will handle the children already separated from their families. Congress is considering legislative solutions as well.

Meanwhile, organizations across the U.S. are stepping in to provide support to these families and have raised millions for legal help and supplies.

Here's what you need to know if you choose to support these organizations.

Do your homework

"We always recommend doing your research," Larry Lieberman, chief operating officer of watchdog company Charity Navigator, tells CNBC Make It. Charity Navigator rates non-profits, allows you to find out more about the organization and how the money is spent. The site's ratings are based off two main components: the financial health of the non-profit and accountability and transparency with which they handle funds.

When donating, look for organizations that avoid any processing fees, Lieberman says. "Giving directly through the organization's website is the best way to get the money to the charity directly," he adds. While cash donations are the best way to avoid processing fees, some organizations aren't able to mobilize on that donation immediately.

And be careful when donating to a campaign on GoFundMe and other crowdfunding options. "Take a look at who is collecting the funds," Lieberman says. "If the person running the campaign is someone who works directly for the organization or with the organization or is someone you know or a friend knows, then you can donate more confidently knowing that someone isn't taking advantage of your generosity."

You should also get in contact with the organization directly. "Reach out to the organization both before giving and after giving to understand the charity's needs, goals, and accomplishments," Lieberman says.

Where to donate

There are hundreds of organizations working to help immigrants at the border, many of which are local charities and non-profits. If you're not quite sure where to donate but know you'd like to specifically help the children affected by the border crisis, ActBlue has set up a portal to donate to over a dozen organizations all at once.

If you're interested in donating to a single organization, or creating separate donations, here are a few of the leading non-profits involved in immigration issues.

  • ACLU

The American Civil Liberties Union is focused on defending the rights of immigrant families and says it "won't stop fighting until families are reunited." The organization already has raised over $1 million, thanks in part to donations from celebrities like musician John Legend and his wife Chrissy Teigen.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk also said publicly that he's one of the organization's top donors.

The ACLU is advocating for the immediate release of all the parents and children held at detention centers, Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, told Mic. The organization has also filed a class action lawsuit against the Trump administration and is currently circulating a petition to the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, seeking to stop the current policy of separating children from their parents.

Keep in mind that the ACLU is not a charity, so any donation will not be tax-deductible. However, the organization does have a foundation arm — which receives top marks from Charity Navigator — and your donation to the foundation could help reduce your taxable income.

  • RAICES

The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services is a non-profit focused on "providing free and low-cost legal services to under-served immigrant children, families and refugees in Central and South Texas," according to the organization's website.

The non-profit, which currently has about 50 lawyers on staff, got a lot of attention over the past week after Charlotte and Dave Willner set up a Facebook fundraiser that raised over $10 million in just four days.

Donations made to the Facebook fundraiser go directly to RAICES, and the non-profit says it plans to use the funds to hire more attorneys and volunteers willing to travel to Texas to assist. On Wednesday, the organization is planning a webinar to talk about its work and future goals.

  • Texas Civil Rights Project

The TCRP is "helping families at the US border get legal advice and translation services," and is interviewing families to document what is happening to ensure they are reunited as quickly as possible. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg created a fundraiser that has generated over $50,000 for the TCRP so far. The organization has four stars, the highest possible rating, from Charity Navigator.

  • The Florence Project

Another legal aid organization, The Florence Project, provides free legal services to detained immigrants in Arizona. An estimated 86 percent of those detained have no legal representation while going through immigration removal proceedings, the organization says.

In addition to donations, The Florence Project also accepts volunteers. So if you live in Arizona, you can help out directly as a translator, researcher or even act as a pro bono attorney if you're qualified.

The organization's website was overwhelmed with the flood of visitors earlier in the week, but the Florence Project says it is back up and running and able to accept donations directly.

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