Charities deny report of immigration checks

December 1, 2009 4:51:09 PM PST
The holidays are here and charitable organizations are getting ready for countless toy drives across our area. But some parents worry their children will be turned away because of their legal status. There's been an uproar from the community in the wake of a report published in a local newspaper that said some charities distributing toys this holiday season are checking parents' immigration status. But the charities say it just isn't true.

Johnny Mata with the American GI Forum asked, "How do you explain to children that because their parents have no documents, they will be able to receive Christmas?"

That's the reaction to a published report in a local newspaper that some local charities are checking the immigration status for recipients of toy distribution.

Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia weighed in, "Christmas knows no borders. Any toy distribution program that discriminates against children's based on their parents' immigration station is not in the Christmas spirit."

But the charities in question, the Salvation Army and Outreach Program Inc, say they don't check for immigration status.

Lorugene Young Outreach Program Inc said, "I would like to apologize. Whoever interpreted me like that, I apologize, because that's not what was said."

The Salvation Army wants a Social Security number from any member of the family of kids receiving toys to prevent fraud, says a spokesman.

"People have been led to believe that the Salvation Army is in the business of soliciting or checking for immigration status, when in fact we're not," explained Juan Alanis with the Salvation Army.

The Houston Fire Department, which collects toys for Outreach Program Inc, says immigration status is not a concern.

HFD Assistant Chief Adrian Trevino said, "When we get to this time of year and it's time to give back to the community, we don't really care what your immigration status is."

The toy distribution charities say they do ask for some form of ID -- a birth certificate, a consular card, a child's school registration -- to keep track of how much they give out, and to prevent fraud. But Outreach Program Inc and the Salvation Army say that if a family does not have documents, they will get some kind of help.


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