On February 22, 2017, Edgar Saldivar, an attorney with the ACLU of Texas, answered an important phone call. It was the first call to the Immigrant Rights Hotline.
A single point-of-contact for immigrants from the Houston region seeking information about changing laws and policies and their rights, the Hotline was developed by the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative. HILSC is a network of immigration service providers that was itself developed in 2013 by a wide range of stakeholders, including Houston Endowment.
“It really was a joint effort between service providers and funders to come up with this model,” said Kate Vickery, HILSC’s executive director. “And it continues to be a true collaborative effort.”
In pursuit of its mission to help low-income immigrants access information and legal representation, HILSC has two main areas of work.
The first involves amplifying the work of individual organizations by bringing them together. This has proven successful in attracting additional funding from national funders that HILSC can then re-grant.
Deciding how those funds should be re-granted is HILSC’s second area of work. Working groups of both service providers and funders conceive of ideas for on-the-ground projects – and then decide together who should receive funding to implement them.
This makes HILSC unique among similar efforts across the country.
“HILSC is the only [immigration] funding collaborative that puts service providers in the front seat, making grantmaking decisions,” said Vickery.
In addition to initiating the Hotline and other innovative projects related to pro se asylum, notario fraud prevention and deportation defense in 2017, HILSC also responded to immigrants’ needs after Hurricane Harvey.
“I would never have expected HILSC to have any role in Harvey relief,” said Vickery, “But within hours, our listserv was being used to share critical information about where immigrants could safely seek services.”
Having learned about the barriers that prevent undocumented and under-documented people from receiving relief, HILSC is already planning ahead for the next natural disaster.
“Houston Endowment’s theory of change forces direct service providers to look up from that direct service work and see who else is in the space – how they can work together.” Kate Vickery, executive director, HILSC
Houston Endowment Investment in HILSC: $150,000 via the Greater Houston Community Foundation (2014), $875,000 to the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative (2016 – 2017), Including $125,000 for Harvey relief efforts.