This article is written by one of our volunteer attorneys who visited a family detention center in Karnes, TX:
I was a volunteer attorney at the Artesia Family Residential Center in New Mexico during the first week of August, when the AILA Artesia Pro Bono Project was just coming into fruition. I came back to Artesia again as a volunteer in September and again in October. Thanks to a grant from Children’s Voice, I was able to travel to San Antonio, Texas during the first week of February to help complete the Artesia Pro Bono Project’s representation of women and children transferred from Artesia to the new facilities in Dilley and Karnes, Texas. The Artesia Pro Bono Project is coming to an end and is not taking on any new clients.
While I was in San Antonio, I got to take part in a large “Big Table Meeting”—a televideo conference call between many of the organizations in Texas that are currently working with the detained mothers and children in Karnes and Dilley, as well of a number of the volunteers and organizers of the Artesia Pro Bono Project. The “Big Table Meeting” is a term coined at Artesia for the end-of-day war room style meeting where the volunteers gathered around a big table at our temporary office space to discuss the events of the day and strategize a plan for tomorrow. The Big Table is really where the Artesia Pro Bono Project was born. As in Artesia, that televideo Big Table Meeting in San Antonio was the first step in bringing together all of the various players involved who want to continue the fight against family detention in Texas. In the two weeks since I’ve left San Antonio, a new project—the Dilley Pro Bono Project—has just formed and is in its earliest stages of operation.
I know from my time in Artesia how critical the initial stage of this project is. Volunteers are needed NOW to help get the Dilley Pro Bono Project up and running. When I was in San Antonio and visited the Dilley and Karnes family detention centers, it was clear that there are many, many women and children there in dire need of legal services. Many of the gains we had made in Artesia—such as being able to bring laptops, phones, and printers into the facility; having a clear procedure in place for scheduling visits; being notified of credible fear interviews and hearings; having an established liaison between our team and the high-ranking officers at the detention center—had all been lost when family detention moved to Texas. Only a smart, coordinated advocacy effort can handle the exponential increase in the government’s use of “family detention” to address the humanitarian crisis that is causing women and children to flee from Central America and seek asylum here.
I encourage others to be a part of this effort, in any way you can. It is a life-changing experience to volunteer and meet these remarkable women and children, to hear their stories, and to help them navigate the landmines of our immigration system. Find out more about how you can be a part of the team effort to protect the rights of some of the most vulnerable people in the world.
There is so much work to be done. As I said after my first trip to Artesia, I will be back…