Volunteer to help women and children in detention

As a human rights lawyer and a mother of a toddler, I was personally struck by what I saw on my visit to Karnes Detention Center in Karnes City, Texas, last month. Refugee women and children, who have come to the United States seeking asylum, are being held in jail-like conditions.

Many of you have asked how can you help these families. We invite you now to volunteer in Texas with the Refugee and Immigration Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), a UUSC partner, and help detained women and children secure asylum in the United States.

This program, a partnership between UUSC, the Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice, and RAICES, will connect Spanish-speaking volunteers with unaccompanied children in need. It will also connect legal professionals with asylum-seeking women and children held in detention centers near San Antonio, Texas. Volunteer placements start on June 7 or 28 and last between one and eight weeks.

Please join us in this lifesaving work. Families in detention face undue trauma. Here are just a few of the things that I learned from interviewing women there and observing them and their children:

  • There are many sick children. If they receive care, the mothers aren’t told what medications the children are given. It takes volunteers and legal representatives four to five weeks to get a copy of these medical records.
  • The refugees are offered unsuitable food, and children are not eating. As a result, a significant number of the women and children face malnourishment — and all the children I met have lost weight since their arrival.
  • Every woman I met complained about the quality of the drinking water. They observed that the guards all drink bottled water, but the women are not provided any — and I know how important it is for nursing mothers to remain hydrated.
  • Babies are not allowed to crawl. They must be held in their mothers’ arms at all times, which prevents children from learning to crawl, pulling themselves up, and otherwise developing.

It is crucial that we stand with these families and defend basic human dignity, liberty, and rights. Applications for this program will be reviewed on a rolling basis with final deadlines of May 10 and May 30 so, apply today! Please e-mail Hannah Hafter at with any questions.


Rachel Gore Freed

Senior Program Leader for Rights at Risk

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee