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CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project

March 31, 2015 (3 min read)
"You can call it a 'Family Residential Center' but it is a prison…That's not what these women and children deserve."
- Leslie Holman, AILA President

"Immigrants' rights and immigrant legal services groups are announcing the establishment of a family detention project to provide legal services to children and their mothers detained in Karnes City and Dilley, Texas, and to advocate for the end of family detention.

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 capacity. The opening of the "South Texas Family Residential Center" in Dilley, Texas - with an initial capacity of 480 beds and the potential to hold 2,400 individuals - and the detention of families at the "Karnes Residential Center" in Karnes City - with a current capacity of 532 beds and plans to double the number - reflect the Obama Administration's continuing commitment to 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 legal process. The project will build on CARA's collective experiences providing legal services, running a pro bono project for families detained in Artesia and Karnes, training lawyers and BIA accredited representatives, and leading advocacy and litigation efforts to challenge unlawful asylum, detention, and deportation policies.

CARA is committed to ensuring that detained children and their mothers receive competent, pro bono representation, and developing aggressive, effective advocacy and litigation strategies to end the practice of family detention.

Helping in Dilley

In December, the federal government opened the newest and largest immigrant family detention center, the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, approximately 80 minutes southwest of San Antonio. As of March 2015, Dilley will have 1200 beds filled with families. Nearly all are seeking asylum. There is virtually no one on the ground providing pro bono representation to these families. In the absence of pro bono counsel, Dilley is a deportation mill that rapidly processes families out of the country. The needs of the families are immense, and they urgently need our help.

CLINIC, AILA and AIC are leading the pro bono effort in Dilley. We are committed to serving these families and ask for volunteer support in this extraordinary effort. We are employing a non-traditional week long model, requesting interested volunteers to commit to a full week on the ground (Sunday to Friday), and to arrive in San Antonio by Sunday afternoon for a mandatory on the ground orientation session.

We are currently recruiting volunteers through September 2015. The greatest need is for attorneys, law students and paralegals with interest and/or experience in asylum work, Spanish speakers are preferred. At present we are doing the following types of work: CFI prep, CFI, IJ review as necessary, full intakes post-positive CFI, bond preparation and bond representation.

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 AILA Practice & Professionalism associate, Maheen Taqui at

Helping in Karnes

The Karnes Detention facility, an hour southeast of San Antonio, was originally designed for civil detention. However, since August of 2014 the Karnes facility has been operating as a family detention center. On any given day there are at least 400 families residing there, with expansion underway to increase capacity to 1100 individuals.

RAICES, a local legal services immigration organization in Texas, is running the pro bono representation program at Karnes, along with Akin Gump, University of Texas School of Law, and Tahirih Justice Center in Houston. RAICES has lawyers at Karnes nearly every day, and the Karnes Pro Bono Project is operated on a traditional pro bono model. To learn more and to volunteer in Karnes, please contact Steven Walden at and Johana De Leon at"

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 14100656.