855-HELP-MY-F(amily), a 24-hour crisis line dedicated to illegal immigrants seeking information about deportation issues, was launched by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. The ICIRR, a privately funded group, will offer legal aid and assistance over the phone to callers as far away as California, who have already heard of the hotline via word of mouth from its month-long test period. Dagmara Lopez of the ICIRR told the Chicago Tribune:
"We've had calls from New York, New Jersey, California mostly, North Carolina,' she said. 'One morning, we got about 50 calls within an hour.'"
During the test period 67 volunteers fielded 173 calls.
"In each case, a volunteer walked the caller through a checklist of questions before referring that person to attorneys, social service agencies or the Mexican Consulate of Chicago, said Salvador Cervantes, a senior organizer at ICIRR who helped develop the hotline."
More than 67 languages are spoken by the Chicago staff. The hotline is modeled after similar programs that provide guidance to the homeless and victims of domestic violence
The ICIRR writes that in the last five years, 48,330 people have been deported from the Chicago ICE region leaving an estimated 80,550 children without a parent, reports NBC Chicago.
Many of the calls to the hotline have come from people asking about the 300,000 deportation cases under review by the Department of Homeland security, ICIRR Director Stephen Smith told the Chicago Tribune.
The hotline spurred a heated discussion on Fox News' "The Five" Tuesday:
What do you think? Certainly a privately-funded group has the right to launch a business. But do you think providing assistance to illegals and their families goes too far?