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Unaccompanied Minors: How Texas Lawyers Can Help

Immigration Law Resources: 
If you are a member of the public looking for general resources on immigration and notario fraud, visit texasbar.com/immigration.

The State Bar of Texas is providing this webpage as a resource for Texas lawyers who want to volunteer to help unaccompanied minors from Central America in need of legal representation. This page will be regularly updated to inform attorneys of training and pro bono opportunities as they become available. To suggest an addition to this page, please email us.

Due to the volume of unaccompanied minors and a quickly changing landscape, legal aid providers are not yet able to respond individually to lawyers who want to help by volunteering their time. If you are interested in volunteering, please complete this form and we will make sure it gets to the providers in your area. It is not necessary to speak Spanish to help.

Please understand that legal assistance is going to be needed for many months. The immediate legal needs for unaccompanied minors involve educating them about the legal process and their rights within that process. Lawyers will also be needed to assist with deportation hearings, assisting qualifying children with applying for special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS), and with asylum cases for adults and children. These legal needs can occur in three to nine months or more.

Training Opportunities (listed by location and date of event)

DALLAS

Friday, Oct. 3, 8 a.m. to noon or 1-5 p.m.: “The Nuts and Bolts of Representing Unaccompanied Children in Dallas Courts,” Belo Mansion, 2101 Ross Ave., two consecutive half-day sessions covering skills for interviewing your client, types of relief for minors, immigration court proceedings, and civil proceedings. Registration is free with acceptance of a pro bono case. A $75 registration fee will apply if not taking a pro bono case. All collected fees will be donated to Human Rights Initiative of North Texas and Catholic Charities of Dallas. CLE credit pending. Presented by the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association in conjunction with Catholic Charities of Dallas, Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Dallas, Texas Unaccompanied Minors Task Force, and Texas Access to Justice Foundation. RSVP via email to zamarripa_jazmin@yahoo.com

HOUSTON

Friday, Oct. 3, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.: 2014 Joseph A. Vail Unaccompanied Alien Child & Asylum Workshop, UH Law Center, Bates Law Building, Room 209. 6.75 CLE hours (1 ethics hour). CLE training is free, but licensed attorneys must pledge to take at least one UAC case following the training. Registration is required. Contact bgossett@uh.edu. For information about UAC cases, contact ghoffman@central.uh.edu

McALLEN

Thursday, Oct. 16, 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.:  “Accompanying Minors to Immigration Court Training,” University of Texas-Pan American McAllen Teaching Site, 1800 S. Main Street, Suite 1100, McAllen, Texas 78503. Learn how to represent unaccompanied minors in immigration court proceedings.  Speakers will discuss how to interview your client, basic court procedure, and helpful legal strategies. Registration is free with your pledge to take one unaccompanied minor case. CLE credit is 2.5 participatory hours. Course number is 901303169. Presented by the Hidalgo County Bar Association and ProBar.  RSVP at the following link:  http://www.hidalgobar.org/events/event_details.asp?id=503709.

Past Training Opportunities

Pro Bono Opportunities (listed by location and date of event)

AUSTIN
  • Ongoing: The Bernardo Kohler Center is seeking pro bono attorneys willing to serve as Attorneys Ad Litem on Special Immigrant Juvenile cases in Travis County. For more information contact tward@bernardokohler.org.
CABRINI CENTER FOR IMMIGRANT LEGAL ASSISTANCE
CATHOLIC CHARITIES OF TEXAS
HUMAN RIGHTS INITIATIVE OF NORTH TEXAS
LAWTON, OKLAHOMA
  • Ongoing: Mobile Volunteer Opportunities: Know Your Rights Legal Presentations and Individual Consultations or Screenings, Fort Sill Detention Center, Lawton, Oklahoma (volunteers reimbursed for tolls and mileage and given per diem food allowance). For more information, go to helpkids.catholiccharitiesok.org or contact Richard Klinge at rklinge@cathliccharitiesok.org or (405) 200-9867.
PROBAR CHILDREN'S PROJECT
REFUGEE AND IMMIGRANT CENTER FOR EDUCATION AND LEGAL SERVICES (RAICES)
SAN ANTONIO 
  • The Texas Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association is asking attorneys to consider volunteering at the Karnes family detention facility, outside of San Antonio, as part of its pro bono efforts for families detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Those interested are asked to complete the following survey form: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/karnes.
VARIOUS LOCATIONS
  • Ongoing: American Immigration Lawyers Association seeking pro bono attorneys willing to travel to remote locations to assist with unaccompanied minor and immigration proceeding cases. For more information go to aila.org.

Volunteer Guides and Manuals

Audio Programs and Videos

How to Donate

  • The Texas Access to Justice Foundation is accepting donations here. You may donate to the foundation or to the legal aid provider of your choice.

  • Cabrini Center for Immigrant Legal Assistance, serving the Harris, Ft. Bend, and Galveston areas.

  • Catholic Charities of Dallas, serving the Dallas area.

  • Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, representing unaccompanied alien children for more than 10 years through the work of pro bono lawyers who represent children in removal proceedings in immigration court and in family district courts. HRI also conducts legal intakes at its offices to screen for eligibility for relief and financial means in addition to many other forms of assistance, including helping clients with Special Immigrant Juvenile Visas and screening and filing asylum cases. “We have a manual with forms and samples for all types of cases we give to volunteer attorneys,” said William Holston, executive director of HRI of North Texas. “We have and continue to expand a network of pro bono lawyers. We do this through in-house and law firm CLEs, communication with pro bono coordinators, bar associations, and corporate legal departments.” HRI has been working with many organizations and firms throughout North Texas, including the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association and many faith communities and churches. “Attending a CLE or screening training is the first step in the process.”

  • Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)

  • ProBAR Children's Project, service the Rio Grande Valley area.

  • Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), serving Central Texas.

Websites

Media Reports

Firms and Lawyers Leading the Way

Baker Botts (Houston)
Baker Botts has had a pro bono program for about 139 years, and involvement comes from every department. In fact, last year the firm donated about 8,000 hours, and this year it is on track for nearly 10,000 hours. In the past two years, Baker Botts has seen an increase in immigration matters, according to Hillary Holmes, a corporate lawyer who has been a member of the firm’s pro bono committee for 10 years and took over as chair this past year. Baker Botts currently has 22 active cases, which take anywhere from one to three years to resolve. Holmes said that most of their cases from Latin America involve youths from Honduras and El Salvador. Baker Botts Houston initiated a partnership with Kids in Need of Defense about two years ago, and it also has affiliations with the YMCA, Catholic Charities, and Human Rights First, among others. These organizations provide training sessions in various areas of the law to interested attorneys, and the firm’s new lawyers will be required to participate in a session as part of their orientation. “The number one thing lawyers need to know going into a matter is that it will be the most personal thing they’ve ever done,” said Holmes. “They might represent Fortune 500 companies in big litigation or represent giant companies in billion-dollar capital market transactions, but this is a completely different ballgame. This is an individual—especially when it is a minor—who has no ability to help himself and you are the only one who can help him through this process. The stakes are so high.”

Greenberg Traurig (Houston)
Attorneys in the Houston office of Greenberg Traurig have been working on cases involving unaccompanied minors for several years, but this past April, Greenberg Traurig launched a firmwide initiative with Kids in Need of Defense to amp up efforts. Currently, 48 lawyers are handling 25 pending cases, and the firm will be recruiting additional attorneys to work on cases over the next several months. “Greenberg Traurig opened its training sessions for the KIND initiative to local attorneys in the community and will be doing so again as we expand the initiative’s reach across the firm,” said Jennifer Tomsen, a shareholder in Greenberg Traurig. “The children who qualify for this relief have typically experienced trauma or deprivation, and we are gratified to be able to put our expertise to work on the children’s behalf and help them navigate a complex legal system they would otherwise have to face alone.”

Holland & Knight (Dallas)
Aubrey Meyers, an attorney with Holland & Knight, said her firm has been working with the Human Rights Initiative, where she also serves as a pro bono attorney and as a member of the board. Meyers said that attorneys interested in assisting should attend a training session offered by HRI or other similar organizations. “The organizations are invaluable resources for everything an attorney would need to know from screening to representing these children in deportation proceedings,” Meyers said. “I would never do this work without HRI’s oversight and educational resources.”

K&L Gates (Houston)
For several years, K&L Gates has worked on many pro bono cases involving unaccompanied minors. In early July 2014, K&L Gates participated with other entities, such as the American Immigration Council, to bring a nationwide class action suit that challenges the federal government’s failure to provide children with legal representation during deportation hearings, according to partner John Sullivan. In addition, the Houston office of K&L Gates is currently working with Kids in Need of Defense and Human Rights First to train lawyers to take on these kinds of cases. “I have handled numerous matters for unaccompanied children in immigration proceedings over the years,” said Sullivan, “and I have found the work very rewarding.” Sullivan expects to co-chair a pro bono attorney recruitment sub-committee of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Task Force with Naomi Bang, an adjunct professor of immigration and human trafficking at South Texas College of Law. “We anticipate recruiting attorneys to represent unaccompanied minors and to organize and conduct CLE’s, training, and mentoring.”

Littler Medelson (Dallas)
The firm has been working with the Human Rights Initiative, Catholic Charities, and the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association, and a team of lawyers and paralegals are assisting with the screening of unaccompanied minors and committing to pro bono representation of the minors. Mey Ly, an attorney with Littler Medelson, said the firm is happy to help interested attorneys get involved. “I will be screening children this Friday,” Ly said. “Next week, I will be attending additional training because I want to take a pro bono case.”

Vinson & Elkins (Dallas)
Vinson & Elkins has been representing minors in immigration proceedings for several years and continues to do so. “Because we have handled several of these types of cases over the past several years, our lawyers can assist by mentoring lawyers who are new to these cases,” said Ellyn Haikin Josef, pro bono counsel and director of professional development at Vinson & Elkins. The firm works with organizations such as Kids in Need of Defense and Catholic Charities to assist these children. “Representing anyone in immigration proceedings is both very challenging and rewarding,” Josef said. “Representing children in these proceedings is no different, but with added challenges and benefits. Lawyers who handle these cases are saving lives—true heroes.”

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (Austin)
In past years, WSGR has worked with Bernardo Kohler Center on SIJ matters and has helped many children achieve legal residency. Because the procedure requires a state court family law proceeding, it would be nearly impossible for a child to navigate this process without attorney assistance. BKC has an in-house lawyer who has been handling hundreds of cases, but BKC is only able to serve a fraction of the need for legal services that exist. To assist with the current influx of unaccompanied children, WSGR Austin is forming an SIJ task force made up of people willing to spend some pro bono time on these matters.

If you are interested in volunteering, please complete this form and we will make sure it gets to the providers in your area. It is not necessary to speak Spanish to help.

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