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As an established leader in the fight to end gender-based violence, Tahirih Houston is helping to build an appropriate humanitarian response to the child refugee crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, and it applauds the growing, broad-based movement in Texas to meet the nation’s moral and legal obligations to unaccompanied refugee children.

Gender-based violence has emerged as one of the root causes of the influx of more than 60,000 unaccompanied children seeking safety this year in the United States from Central America.

The percentage of refugee girls under the age of 13 seeking safety all alone in Houston and in other cities throughout the United States, without the protection of a parent or guardian, increased in 2014, and girls now account for almost half of all unaccompanied children arriving in the United States. Girls commonly cite domestic violence, sexual assault, and rape as reasons for making the dangerous trip north.

To protect these vulnerable girls facing the threat of deportation back into violent homes and communities, Tahirih Houston is:

    1. Working in close consultation with Houston courts and the Houston Asylum Office to uphold the due process rights of all refugee children.

    2. Fostering broad-based coalitions with nonprofit organizations, government officials, pro bono attorneys, and community members that believe in protecting the rights of refugee children.

    3. Providing continuing legal education (CLE) for pro bono attorneys who want to help refugee children access justice. Tahirih Houston recently partnered with the Harris County Attorney Attorney’s Office, the Houston Bar Association, and numerous other private and public organizations to host a free continuing education seminar that reached an estimated 500 legal and law enforcement professionals in Houston. Tahirih Houston continues to pursue similar educational opportunities.

    4. Accepting and responding to pleas for legal assistance from unaccompanied refugee girls. Calls for help can be directed to 713-496-0100.

Anne Chandler, Director of Tahirih Houston, said she is encouraged by the growing humanitarian response in Texas to protect refugee children at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“It has been incredibly heartening to see people from all walks of life come together in Houston to meet our moral and legal obligations to vulnerable refugee children,” Chandler said.

“At Tahirih,” she said, “we believe it is unacceptable to send a traumatized girl who has risked everything to escape violence back into the very home or community she fought so hard to escape, and we will leave no stone unturned to avoid this fate for heroic girls in desperate need of help.”