McGuireWoods Pro Bono Team Advocates for Refugees Seeking U.S. Asylum at Texas Border Detention Center

February 22, 2019

As part of a pro bono effort to assist minor children and their mothers fleeing extreme violence and persecution in their homelands, McGuireWoods legal professionals spent a week at a federal detention center in South Texas to help them advance their asylum claims and be released to their U.S. sponsors while their applications are pending.

McGuireWoods lawyers, paralegals and translators traveled to the South Texas Family Residential Center (STFRC) operated by Core Civic under contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Dilley, Texas, from Feb. 10-15. The facility holds only women detained at the border with children under age 18, the majority of them under age 10.

“This was life-changing and essential work for the many women and children who are in dire need of legal help to ensure their rights are protected,” said Noreen Kelly, managing partner of McGuireWoods’ New York office and part of the firm’s volunteer contingent. “Although the opportunity to advocate for these women and children was an honor and extremely satisfying, it involved the excruciating task for all involved of re-living with them the horrendous violence and persecution they suffered at the hands of gangs, governments and domestic abusers. Having heard their stories, it became clear why an often impoverished mother would take the incredible risk to journey by foot with a small child to the U.S. border with no guarantee of success.” 

Joining Kelly from McGuireWoods were partner James Gelman, associate Danielle Kudla and senior paralegal Candy Guerrero, all of the New York office; senior paralegal Lourdes Duarte of the Los Angeles-Century City office; and practice assistant Abby Espinosa of the Dallas office.

The STFRC processes and detains, sometimes for prolonged periods of time, thousands of asylum seekers who are detained at border crossings.

The Dilley Pro Bono Project — a project of the Immigration Justice Campaign — coordinated the pro bono trip. Lawyers who volunteer with the Dilley Pro Bono Project are committed to ensuring that detained children and their mothers receive competent, pro bono representation during their detention.