SAN ANTONIO -- As the immigration crisis continues to unfold along the border, one key issue at the center of the political debate is a policy signed into law by President Bush.
Some Republicans said they would like to change the 2008 law that requires immigrants from countries other than Mexico and Canada to receive an immigration hearing to determine if there is a basis to apply for asylum.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, the legislation was designed to provide greater protection "for vulnerable populations, particularly women and children" who come to the U.S. seeking humanitarian aid.
One San Antonio-based group is on the front lines of the issue, providing free legal services to many of the unaccompanied children who have crossed the border.
That group is called the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. One thing that RAICES does is provide counsel to undocumented children who, by law, are entitled to legal representation. The group receives no government funding and mainly relies on grants and donations.
RAICES executive director Jonathan Ryan said, every day, the group has attorneys that are consulting undocumented immigrants who are being sheltered by the federal government at Lackland Air Force Base.
"Our core set of services begins with education. We give the children a class called 'know your rights presentation' and it involves some posters with some information and photos to keep them engaged," said Ryan. "We explain to them their rights and their responsibilities to the immigration court, and that (their rights) continue even after they may be released from the shelter."
According to RAICES, most of the kids that come across the border qualify for asylum -- as refugees -- but without legal representation, their fate in the U.S. can be grim.
"Statistics and studies have proven that when children, or any immigrant, has access to council and basic civil legal services and information, they are much more likely to follow through with the immigration court process to the end," said Ryan.
Each day, RAICES strives to consult roughly 100 kids at Lackland about their legal rights. By end of the day Thursday, RAICES reached out to about 90 kids there.