Immigrant Families Together (IFT) was founded in June 2018 as a group of rapid response volunteers who wanted to assist with the acute crises caused by the Trump administration's zero tolerance/family separation policy at the U.S.-Mexico border. The organization's co-founders, Julie Schwietert Collazo and Francisco Collazo, have a background in social work and counseling, respectively, and Francisco himself is a refugee who came to the United States during the Mariel boatlifts of 1980. Both are bilingual (English-Spanish).
IFT understands that we enter a space and do work that has been built on a foundation that was poured and cemented by many other organizations and individuals who have been involved in immigration advocacy for decades. It is our goal to assist with that work, not to distract from it or duplicate efforts. To that end, we believe that our model fills a void that existed in the immigration advocacy space. Specifically, we are the only organization that both posts bond and then provides ongoing, full-scale support in a one-stop-shop model, to families affected by family separation at the border. This is the primary focus of our work: to post bond for adult family members separated from children at the border, and to then provide them with the level of support that they require to be able to live safe, stable lives until they are able to become self-supporting and/or until they complete their asylum proceedings. In addition, we provide various forms of support to partner organizations, particularly partners in the borderlands. We send material donations, including new toiletries, clothing, shoes, undergarments, small toys and learning materials to partners. Finally, we are actively involved in efforts to shape policy agendas around immigration. Our work has led to investigations being launched by the Senate Finance Committee, and to detention abuses being entered into the Congressional Record. We also collaborate with partners on initiatives such as improving general oversight in detention centers, closing down tent cities where unaccompanied minors are held, ensuring menstrual equity in detention centers, and fighting for legal claims for individuals and families affected by zero tolerance.