Happy holidays -- now where's that immigration paperwork?
Several programs providing Christmas gifts for needy children are checking immigration status first, requiring at least one member of the household to be a U.S. citizen before handing over toys. The Salvation Army and a charity affiliated with the Houston Fire Department are asking for children's birth certificates or Social Security cards.
The point isn't to punish children but to ensure parents are citizens, legal immigrants or working to become legal residents, said Lorugene Young, whose Outreach Program Inc. is one of three groups that distribute toys collected by firefighters.
"It's not our desire to turn anyone down," she said. "Those kids are not responsible if they are here illegally. It is the parents' responsibility."
Cesar Espinoza, executive director of the advocacy group America for All, says such policies are unfair to kids who did nothing wrong.
"It is very disturbing to think a holiday like Christmas would be tainted with things like this," he said. "Usually, people target the adults because the adults made the decision to migrate, where the children are just brought through no fault of their own."
Other groups don't require specific documentation. Those that check immigration status or other qualifications say they are trying to make good decisions.
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"We want to be good stewards, so the people that are donating to us trust we're going to do the right thing," said Sonya Scott, manager of care ministries at West Houston Assistance Ministries. The group does not check immigration but requires identification, including birth certificates for children and proof of income.