Lawyers Giving Back
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.
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)
Please check back for updates
Pro Bono Opportunities (listed by location and date of event)
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
CABRINI CENTER FOR IMMIGRANT LEGAL ASSISTANCE
CATHOLIC CHARITIES OF TEXAS
DIOCESAN MIGRANT & REFUGEE SERVICES (DMRS)
- Pro bono volunteers may visit http://dmrs-ep.org/volunteer/.
Service area = West Texas and New Mexico
HUMAN RIGHTS INITIATIVE OF NORTH TEXAS
KIDS IN NEED OF DEFENSE (KIND)
- Pro bono volunteers may visit https://www.supportkind.org/en/get-involved.
Volunteers may also contact email@example.com.
Service area = Harris and Montgomery Counties
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or (405) 200-9867.
PROBAR CHILDREN'S PROJECT
REFUGEE AND IMMIGRANT CENTER FOR EDUCATION AND LEGAL SERVICES (RAICES)
- 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.
- 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
- Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht calls on attorneys to volunteer (YouTube video).
- Texas Volunteer Attorney SIJS Training (YouTube video), American Gateways, Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas, Bernardo Kohler Center, Catholic Charities of Central Texas, and Casa Marianella at McGinnis, Lochridge and Kilgore in Austin.
- The Rights of Unaccompanied Children Crossing the Texas Border and the Duties of Federal, State and Local Governments (video), Harris County Attorney's Office.
- Unaccompanied Immigrant Youth Alone in the Courts (audio), American Bar Association.
- Unaccompanied Minors: What is Going On and What Attorneys Can Do (YouTube video), Dallas Hispanic Bar Association.
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
- Cabrini Center for Immigrant Legal Assistance,
serving the Harris, Ft. Bend, and Galveston areas.
- Catholic Charities of Dallas, serving the Dallas
Rights Initiative of North Texas, representing
unaccompanied alien children for more than 10 years through the
pro bono lawyers who represent children in removal proceedings in
immigration court and in family district courts. HRI also conducts
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
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
Hispanic Bar Association and many faith communities and churches.
“Attending a CLE or screening training is the first step in
- Kids in
Need of Defense (KIND)
- ProBAR Children's Project, service the Rio Grande
- Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), serving Central Texas.
- Administration for Children and Families (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
Immigration Lawyers Association
- Children at
Currently focusing on Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, Children at Risk has coordinated CLEs to educate attorneys in Houston, Austin, and Dallas.
- Dallas Hispanic Bar Association Unaccompanied Minor
Committee, spearheading efforts on behalf of the Dallas Bar
Association and the local minority bar associations to recruit,
and help organize volunteer attorneys to screen children throughout
Texas and Oklahoma for potential relief under current immigration
and to represent the children in legal proceedings; also presenting
courses for non-immigration attorneys and immigration attorneys to
prepare for taking on a pro bono case.
Bar Association of Houston, helping to
train attorneys and connect attorneys with pro bono
- Hispanic National Bar Association announcement regarding
Taskforce on the Unaccompanied Minors Humanitarian Crisis.
- Human Rights First – Houston Chapter, provides
mentoring to pro bono attorneys who represent clients through the
office, conducts screenings prior to placing cases to ensure that
claims are viable, reviews applications and supporting documents,
with pro bono attorneys to discuss case updates, and assists
with the steps of a case.
- Mexican American
Bar Association – San Antonio
Chapter, collecting donated toys, clothes, and food to
distribute to unaccompanied minors being housed in San Antonio and
South Texas facilities. The association also connects attorneys
- State Bar of Texas Hispanic Issues Section Resource
- Supreme Court of Texas Permanent Judicial Commission for
Children, Youth and Families’ Unaccompanied Minor Information
- Texas Access to
- Texas Access to Justice Foundation’s Unaccompanied
Minors in Texas
- Unaccompanied Children Resource Center
The site — offered by the Immigration Advocates Network and the American Bar Association, in partnership with Pro Bono Net — shares trusted legal information and referrals with advocates, children, and their guardians.
- U.S. Department of Education Fact Sheet Regarding
The U.S. Department of Education has shared with state education agencies a fact sheet regarding educational services for immigrant children and those recently arrived to the United States.
- U.S. Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review
- New mission for lawyers: free aid to young immigrants (Oct. 1, 2014)
- Commentary: 'Notarios' are not attorneys, McAllen Monitor (Aug. 26, 2014)
- Cómo evitar ser víctima de fraude migratorio, Univision (Aug. 20, 2014)
- Statewide Need is Great for Pro Bono Legal Work on Border Crisis, The Texas Lawbook (July 22, 2014)
- A Texas attorney’s perspective on the unaccompanied minor crisis along the South Texas border, Texas Bar Blog (July 8, 2014)
- Dallas Hispanic lawyers to help youths held at border, The Dallas Morning News (June 13, 2014)
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.”
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.
Log in to My Bar Page to report your pro bono hours now. Reporting your hours helps us by highlighting the importance of your pro bono work in meeting the needs of indigent Texans, and helps to bolster funding requests for legal services programs. You can also help your State Bar section win the Pro Bono Challenge!
Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans is a State Bar of Texas program to develop and assist pro bono legal clinics throughout the state for military veterans who otherwise cannot afford or do not have access to the legal services they need.
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