Campaign initiated to fund legal advocacy group

McALLEN — Fewer low-income Texans could potentially have less access to legal services after it was announced that the Texas Civil Rights Project would not be receiving nearly $1 million in state legal aid funds.

After the “abrupt loss” of $900,000, officials with the TCRP announced Monday the launch of a new campaign designed to recoup some of the lost funding, according to a news release from the nonprofit.

“As lawmakers and state officials become increasingly hostile to civil rights, TCRP’s efforts to create lasting change have sparked a backlash, leading to the abrupt loss of roughly $900,000 to the organization as of Sept. 1,” the release states.

The Fight for Rights Campaign is an effort to replace the funding. According to TCRP’s 2016 annual report, a majority of their income came from state grants and contracts, which accounted for nearly $1.5 million of the more than $2 million in total received that year.

In 2016, a large percentage of TCRP’s funding contributions and grants came from the Texas Access to Justice Foundation — $1,109,527 of the total $2,059,028 TCRP received, according to TRCP’s IRS 990 form.

The foundation, which was created by the Texas Supreme Court in 1984 and whose funding comes from the state legislature, is charged with granting millions of dollars to organizations, like TCRP, that provide free civil legal assistance to low-income Texans, the foundation’s website states.

TCRP, also in 2016, received $197,611 from other entities, including the office of the attorney general, and $50,000 from the Texas Organizing Project, to name a few.

Locally, TCRP has made its impact felt, with lawsuits in 2015, 2016 and 2017 in different immigrant-related cases.

In May 2015, TCRP and the Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid represented a number of undocumented parents of U.S.-born children who were being denied their birth certificates.

The following summer, TCRP and TRLA claimed a victory against Texas and the Department of State Health Services.

Under the new agreement signed by both parties, Texas will now accept a Mexican voter registration card, which Mexican nationals living in Texas can obtain from their local consulate. Also accepted are official certifications of identification issued by the consulates for El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras; and a wide range of supporting documents, including church records and some expired IDs, The Monitor reported last summer.

The organization’s executive director, Mimi Marziani, released a statement reacting to the news about the funding.

“Let’s be clear about what just happened: our success at holding the people in power accountable led to the loss of our funding,” Marziani said in a prepared statement. “…I believe we are particularly threatening to the powers-that-be because we are part of a larger movement for equality, justice and human dignity.

“Fortunately, many individuals and philanthropic institutions in Texas and beyond realize the importance of our work. We are confident that, thanks to the broad base of people who support our mission, we will continue to thrive and to serve Texas’ social justice movements for generations to come.”

According to the release, since Sept. 1 TCRP’s campaign has received nearly $500,000 in donations.