Attorneys and Paralegals Needed to Help Immigrants Oppressed by ICE

This was originally posted on

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, the American Immigration Council, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, collectively known as CARA, have joined forces in response to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) significant expansion of its family detention at the South Texas Family Residential Center (STFRC) and the Karnes Residential Center.

The continued detention of families reflects the government’s ongoing persistence to preserve the flawed deterrence policy it began in June 2014 with the opening of a temporary family detention center in Artesia, New Mexico.

The detention of children and their mothers is not only inhumane, but incompatible with a fair and just legal process. The CARA Family Detention Project builds on the collective experiences of the partners by organizing and managing a robust pro bono legal services project to help the families detained in Dilley and Karnes.

CARA’s aim is twofold: to ensure that detained children and their mothers receive competent, pro bono representation and to end the practice of family detention entirely by leading aggressive advocacy and litigation efforts to challenge unlawful asylum, detention, and deportation policies.

“There is simply no humane way to detain families. Asylum seeking families should be given due process, not expedited removal. And the end of the road must be the end of family detention entirely.” – Victor Nieblas Pradis, Former AILA President

Dilley Pro Bono Project

In December 2014, the federal government opened the largest immigrant family detention center, the South Texas Family Residential Center (STFRC) in Dilley, Texas, approximately 80 minutes southwest of San Antonio. Despite the recent Flores order from August 21, 2015, the federal government has continued its inhumane detention of children and their mothers.

Currently, there are approximately 1,000 mothers and their children detained in Dilley. The detention center has the capacity to hold 2,400 women and children, and the population is constantly fluctuating. And, nearly all are seeking asylum. With virtually no one on the ground to provide assistance and representation to these families, the partners of the Dilley Pro Bono Project are leading the effort in Dilley. The Dilley Pro Bono Project operates a non-traditional pro bono model of legal services that directly represents the mothers and children detained at the South Texas Family Residential Center. We organize volunteer teams for each week. We ask volunteers to commit to a Sunday to Friday work schedule and to arrive Sunday evening for a mandatory on the ground orientation meeting. After an exhilarating and exhausting week, the team leaves the following Saturday, and a new team arrives to take over the caseload and carry the work forward.

We are currently recruiting volunteers indefinitely.

The greatest need is for attorneys, law students, and paralegals with interest and experience in asylum work. The project also encourages and appreciates the participation of return volunteers from both Artesia and Dilley, with their vast experience working in a family detention setting. To provide effective assistance to our clients and to have a meaningful experience, we recommend volunteers to either be fluent in Spanish or consider collaborating with an interpreter. Compassion, endurance, resilience, flexibility, and the commitment to ending the insidious practice of family detention are required for every volunteer. To volunteer, please complete the Dilley Volunteer Sign-up Form.

To learn more about the Dilley Pro Bono Project, and how you can help, please contact Volunteer Coordinator, Caya Simonsen at

Helping in Karnes

Volunteers are also currently needed to assist with providing legal support for children and mothers detained at the Karnes Family Detention Center. The Center, an hour southeast of San Antonio, currently has bed space for up to 800 children and mothers, all families who have fled extreme violence in Central America. As a volunteer you would work as part of the Karnes Pro Bono Project, providing legal support for families detained at the Center.

Ideal volunteers for this work are attorneys, law students, or paralegals with an understanding of asylum law in the United States. While experience is preferred, it is not a requirement as training will be provided to all volunteers before they enter the Center. In order to help as part of this work it is required that you speak Spanish fluently, or that you are able to secure your own interpreter to join you at the Center.

Since the start of family detention in August of 2014, over 300 volunteers from around the country have helped provide legal services to over to over 3,000 asylum seekers. We welcome volunteers from around the country and are able to assist in finding free homestays in San Antonio. This is an opportunity that will stay with you for life, and we encourage you to join us in defending these vulnerable families.

To learn more about the Karnes Pro Bono Project, and how you can help, please contact Barbara Pena at

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: