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ABA Working Group on Unaccompanied Minors Welcomes Added Volunteers
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Summary: With growing concern over what happens to children who cross the border illegally, more lawyers are donating their time to help.

With conditions along the Mexico border taking a front seat in the news, attorneys are jumping at the opportunity to provide their services to immigrant families. The American Bar Association’s Working Group on Unaccompanied Minors has seen a jump in the number of attorneys requesting pro bono work with minor immigrants, according to the ABA Journal.

  
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ABA Center for Pro Bono director Cheryl Zalenski explained that since June 11, the working group has received over 50 requests through the ABA Immigrant Child Advocacy Network. Co-Chair of the working group, Mary Ryan, said the added volunteers are a very welcome addition to their efforts, especially those with immigration law expertise or Spanish-speaking abilities. Ryan is also a partner with Boston firm Nutter McClennen & Fish.

Ryan said, “We know that children in the court systems or in the administrative immigration system have a much lower chance of prevailing, if they have meritorious claims, without a lawyer.”

The working group and Immigrant Child Advocacy Network does not work with the children directly but acts as a connector for volunteer lawyers to local organizations. Then the lawyers are able to connect with minors and help them in the later stages of their immigration cases either in immigration court, with asylum claims, or a bid in state court for Special Immigration Juvenile Status.

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Lawyers interested in working right at the border or directly through the ABA can do so through the ABA’s South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project, which works with minors and adults. They can also work with the Immigration Justice Project of San Diego, which works only with adults. Both groups are funded by the ABA Fund for Justice and Education. ProBAR is currently hiring for Spanish-speaking immigration attorneys in South Texas.

Lawyers are also able to donate money if they are unable to donate time. Ryan said, “There’s a crisis in our immigration system right now that’s challenging the ability of any immigrant, but particularly the children, from receiving the due process to which they’re entitled, and to which of course the [ABA] is committed. Children going pro se through the immigration system is just not something that any lawyer should let happen.”



ABA President Hilarie Bass visited the Texas-Mexico border recently to “assess the situation and investigate ways the legal community can help expedite the reunification of families, assist in finding pro bono attorneys for those seeking asylum, and the ease the stress and suffering of all individuals seeking entry into the United States.”

Those wanting to learn more about immigration law can reach out the Commission on Immigration’s Houston-based Children’s Immigration Law Academy for training, collaboration, and technical assistance. Donated money assists volunteers with training, computers, and policy advocacy.

Do you think law schools could open clinics to address the topic? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about immigration, read these articles:

Photo: prideimmigration.com



 

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