ImmigrationLocal Organizing

#FamiliesBelongTogether Recess Action Toolkit


From day one, the Trump Administration has systematically targeted immigrants and their families, aiming to jail or deport as many as possible. From enabling ICE to terrorize immigrants and their families to making it harder for people to claim asylum at the border and now ripping babies away from their parents and detaining them, Trump is fulfilling the promises he made during his campaign and Congressional Republicans are enabling him.

What is Trump’s Family Separation Policy?

On April 6, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would be implementing a “zero-tolerance” policy for those who entered the country illegally: simply put, anyone—including families—who crosses the southwest border or attempts to cross the border is subject to criminal prosecution and deportation. Anyone who is charged is jailed, and if they have children, their children are taken away from them.

Through the Administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy, the U.S. is now systematically ripping children away from their parents at the border as a way to deter other immigrants and asylum seekers from coming to the U.S. This family separation policy is consistent with Trump’s larger immigration strategy, which is founded on tearing families apart and instilling fear in immigrant communities.

Is this new?

Yes, it is. Under the new Trump policy, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“Border Patrol”) removes children from parents at the border and places them in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), designating them “unaccompanied minors”. This is happening because parents are being prosecuted for illegal entry (hence, “zero-tolerance”) and they are unable to take their children with them to detention facilities. This has also happened to asylum seekers who have presented themselves to border agents as is required under law.

Simply put: these children are being made unaccompanied minors by the Trump administration, even though they came here with their parents.

How Bad is This?

This is more than bad: it’s appalling.

Since the policy was implemented, over 2,300 children have been ripped away from their parents at the border. That includes babies as young as 18 months old being torn from their mother’s arms and being placed in shelters, with parents not knowing where their children are or whether they are ok. The Department of Health and Human Services now has custody of over 11,785 migrant children.

We’re already seeing the impact it’s having on these children and their families; in May, a Honduran father named Marco Antonio Munoz took his own life after the Border Patrol separated him from his wife and three year old son as they sought asylum in the United States. Additionally, journalists with access to the separated children have reported signs of trauma.

Right now, the Trump administration is causing thousands of immigrant children severe damage in order to enforce a xenophobic agenda. This on top of the relentless attacks against immigrant families we’re seeing internally across the country under this Administration.

What about Trump’s Executive Order?

First and foremost, the zero tolerance policy is still in place, meaning that people who cross the border are still being prosecuted. However, the executive order directs the Department of Homeland Security to keep families together while their cases are being processed. That means that our government is now detaining immigrant families. The executive order additionally directs the Department of Defense and other agencies to support DHS in detaining immigrants, meaning that the U.S. government will be creating a massive family immigration detention system.

What about the Courts?

On June 26th, a federal judge in California issued a preliminary injunction on the family separation crisis. Under the injunction, the government MUST reunite parents who are currently in ICE custody with their separated children and allow communication with between parents and children within 10 days. While this case is merely the first step in a potentially long legal battle, it’s a critical first step. That said, this ruling doesn’t prevent family detention, which is the Trump administration’s preferred solution. We still need to make sure that Members of Congress don’t support legislation that would enable family detention.

The Bottom Line

Despite the twists and turns, a lot is still the same: Trump created the family separation crisis, his new executive order is not a solution, and Congress cannot enable Trump’s preferred solution of detaining immigrant families . And like so many other Trump-created crises, Republicans in Congress are letting it happen. Some may have expressed concerns about the policy, but none have done anything about it. That’s where you come in.

What should you be asking for?

For Republicans: Voting Down Bad Bills

There are multiple efforts by Congressional Republicans to codify Trump’s executive order, from Senator Cruz’s legislation to the Paul Ryan immigration proposal in the House. There will be more attempts by Republicans to use this situation to push radically anti-immigrant bills. If you have a Republican Member of Congress (MoC), demand that they vote down any bill that will create family jails or harm immigrants in any other capacity.

For Democrats: No Bad Bills

If you have a Democratic MoC, chances are they’ve probably released public statements about how they oppose family separation at the border. But that doesn’t mean they won’t consider supporting bad legislation. Right now, Republicans in the House and Senate are contemplating bills that would create family detention facilities as a “fix” to the current crisis, and some Democrats are considering joining. If you have a Democratic Member of Congress (MoC), demand that they vote down any bill that will create family jails for immigrants.

Take Action: At District Offices, July 4th Events, and Town Halls

On June 29, MoCs will fly back to their home districts for July 4 recess. Many of our elected officials will tweet about their love of country and march in Independence Day parades while turning a blind eye to the Trump Administration’s attacks on immigrant families. We need them to take action.

So wherever MoCs go, Indivisible groups will be there—at those parades, at campaign events, and at district offices across the country—to ask their MoCs to keep families together and free, and to act to end the indefinite detention of immigrant families. Groups will rally together, bringing teddy bears and photos of their families/children, with notes written on the back asking MoCs to end family separation.

Planning a #FamiliesBelongTogether Event

  1. First, make a list of partner organizations. Are there local immigrant rights groups in your community? Reach out and ask if they would like to shape the event, co-sponsor it, speak to the crowd, or be involved in any other way. Be open to their feedback! A copy of our Immigrant Ally toolkit can be found here.
  2. Gather your fellow organizers and choose a date and location for your action during the July 4 recess. MoCs are likely to fly back to their districts on June 29, and will be there until July 8. There are three important ways to take action over recess: District Office visits, July 4th celebrations, and town halls or forums.
    • District Office visits are a key way to make sure your MoC hears your concerns.
    • Another good option is July 4 celebrations that your MoC will attend. Is there a parade or barbecue in which they are scheduled to participate? Alternatively, see if your MoC has a campaign event in your area where you could plan the action.
    • Check if your MOC is holding any local events such as town halls or forums. These are great opportunities to ask them questions and hold them accountable.
  3. Once you’ve chosen the date, register the event online. Registering your event will ensure that Indivisible can promote it.
  4. Make a recruitment/promotion plan.
    • Call each member of your local Indivisible group, and personally invite them to join you in this action.
    • Invite other members of your community, including your friends and family.
    • Make fliers and post the event on all your social media channels
  5. Invite media
    • Send a media advisory to local media contacts 1-2 days in advance (see example below)
    • The morning of the event, call your local TV stations to confirm they received the media advisory and ask if they plan to attend.
    • See more tips on reaching out to media here.
  6. Prepare any artwork/supplies.
    • Set aside some time to get a stuffed animal, or find photos of your own loved ones that you can bring to the event.
    • Write messages that you can leave behind, including explanations of why you find ICE’s actions cruel and immoral, and ask your MoC to vote down any bad immigration proposals
    • Design any banners or picket signs that you will use at the event.
    • Inform participants that the movement—allies in the coalition executing events—have decided to wear white and to dress accordingly to show consistency.
  7. Assign key roles
    • Media Liaison—serves as the point of contact for press (see sample media  advisory below)
    • Social Media Coordinators—take photos, live tweet, and record the event on Facebook Live (be sure to tag @IndivisibleTeam on Twitter!). Use the social media toolkit below, before and after your event!

Executing a #FamiliesBelongTogether Event

  1. The morning of your event, make a reminder call or send a text to all of your RSVPs.
  2. Arrive at the event location a little bit early, and bring pens and clipboards.
  3. Welcome and thank every attendee, and have them sign in so that you get an accurate headcount, and so you can follow up with them later.
  4. Go into the District Office, or event space if held elsewhere, allowing immigrant families and impacted communities to walk in first, with the rest of the community following behind.
  5. Have your partner organizations, and other key people share remarks, followed by the organizer of the event asking staff if the MoCs will commit to opposing legislation that would codify Trump’s executive order, jail immigrant families, or increase funding for ICE or CBP.
  6. Allow others at the event to share their messages.
  7. At a district office, everyone should leave their teddy bears, photos, and personal messages at the desk or in the waiting area. At a July 4th celebration or another public event, think about where to leave these items so they remind participants about your action.
  8. Livestream the event, take photos, and share on social media throughout.

Centering Affected People

One of the most important things to keep in mind while planning these events will be to actively reach out to groups in your community who have been organizing on immigration. Solidarity and coalition building are extremely important to the work we do. We need to make sure that at these events we are centering the people and voices most affected by this administration’s attacks on immigrants. Groups like United We Dream have been organizing in the immigrant community and fighting for immigrants’ rights for many years. Newcomers should first reach out to local groups and see how we can add to or amplify the work they are already doing.

After the event is over—Our work is not done!

  1. Email your attendees to thank them for a great action.
    • Immediate follow up is important!
  2. Invite all attendees and organizers to a debrief meeting.
    • Write an agenda that allows both organizers and participants to reflect, and that allows space for forward planning and improvement.
  3. Establish next steps—your MoC needs to keep hearing from you!
    • Ask your group members to call their MoCs regularly—our call script can be found here. Demand that your MoCs vote down any bad immigration proposals that will create family jails. Try to keep a tally of the calls being made!
    • Reach out to local immigrants’ rights organizations and find out how to be supportive over the long-term, whether that’s volunteering, donating supplies, or hosting a fundraiser.

Social Media Toolkit

Sample Media Advisory