This morning, I met with another woman I couldn’t help. She was from Guatemala, had three children, and was in her early 30s. Just four days ago, her US citizen husband beat her, punching her in the face and leaving her severely bruised in the lip, jaw, and eye. After years of abuse, she’d finally gotten up the courage to call 911 and go to the Harris County District Attorneys’ Office to obtain a protective order. Now, instead of receiving protection from an abusive partner, her immigration status is being scrutinized and she is at risk of deportation.
Like many abusers, her partner used the immigration system as a further tool of abuse and, in an act of revenge, pulled the pending immigration status application he previously submitted on her behalf. If he succeeds in his efforts, she and her 2-year-old child, who is not a U.S. citizen, will be deported into poverty. Her other two children (7 and 5 years old) are U.S. citizens. They are likely to join their mother in Guatemala, where they will be prey for gangs. The alternative is to stay in the United States to be raised by a dangerous parent or be dumped into a foster home. The sad thing is that she is entitled to protective legal status. If she could access this legal network, she and her children would not have to leave the only home they have known.
Our Houston office only has one other staff, in addition to me. We are doing all we can to help the overwhelming number of women who come to us for help, but we cannot help them all. This month, alone, I had to turn away 17 women who asked us for help. For this client, I was only able to give her the phone numbers of other organizations to call, encourage her to keep hope, and to call me back in a month to see if we have more capacity then.
I have been leading Tahirih Houston since we first opened in September 2009. Since then, we have accomplished a lot. We are currently representing 34 primary clients and their family members. We have provided legal support and advice to over 100 women and children fleeing gender-based violence. Through the generosity of pro bono networks of attorneys, medical providers, and interpreters, we turn every $1 we receive into $5 worth of services and keep our overhead costs below 5% (including in-kind revenue). Nationwide, we have assisted over 11,000 clients since our inception and maintain a 99% litigation success rate.
In spite of our successes, we are failing to meet the needs of immigrant women in Houston fleeing violence. We need to hire another attorney to take on more cases and to provide quality support to an even greater number of pro-bono attorneys. I am excited to let you know that we recently received a grant from the Houston Endowment, which combined with your donation, will allow us to bring on another attorney. The Endowment has joined The Simmons Foundation, the Texas Bar Foundation and The Kempner Fund, among others, in recognizing the comprehensive holistic approach Tahirih uses to protect and rebuild the lives of our clients. And while these generous funders support our work, it is not enough to meet all of the needs in the Houston community.
To raise the remainder of money needed, we need to raise $35,000. Please consider investing in Tahirih’s capacity by giving a monthly gift of $42 or an outright donation of $500. This amount represents one tenth of the total cost absorbed by Tahirih to litigate and provide social services to support one family.
You have rallied around the women who have needed your support before. I have faith that our community can muster the same support now. Please help us protect more immigrant women fleeing human rights abuses in Houston. Our clients are extremely vulnerable and often have nowhere else to turn. Tahirih is the only organization in Houston that provides the range of services that we do and focuses on the needs of immigrant women and children. Once they have come to us, they have already gone through so much. We should not have to turn them away. Thank you for any amount you are able to give.
Tahirih Houston Director