chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
July 01, 2019

Are you an attorney who wants to get involved at the border? The ABA offers ways to do it

This article was originally published on July 3rd, 2019 in the ABA Journal. Click here to see the original.

In May, Jim Pauli joined several attorney volunteers in assisting asylum-seekers through the ABA’s South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project in Harlingen, Texas.

Pauli wanted to understand what was happening at the border and help people fleeing violence and persecution—like the Eritrean man who told him he was forced to join the military and imprisoned when he requested to leave after 19 years of service. He was tortured after he escaped. Last week, he heard the man was granted asylum.

“There are many people with worthy cases and we’re helping those people,” says Pauli, a member of the ABA Fund for Justice and Education council and the ABA Judicial Division’s Lawyers Conference executive committee. “We’re helping people who are trying to have a better life, and as the ABA, we’re helping to ensure that the rule of law is followed.”

The ABA Commission on Immigration offers several opportunities to members like Pauli who want to help at the border, including through ProBAR, which provides legal information, pro se assistance and pro bono representation to adults and unaccompanied children in immigration detention.

ProBAR is currently looking for Spanish-speaking attorneys to volunteer for an extended period of one month or more, as well as attorneys who can represent clients in removal proceedings and be physically present at all meetings and hearings.

Attorneys can also volunteer with the commission’s Immigration Justice Project. It provides pro bono legal services to indigent immigrants and asylum-seekers who appear before the San Diego immigration court and in appeals.

The 2019 weeklong volunteer trips are full, but attorneys can ask to be placed on the waiting list or volunteer on their own time.

The Commission on Immigration has sponsored the hotline for detainees since 2002. The number is programmed into the free calling list and posted next to telephones in more than 200 Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities where people wait for immigration proceedings.

Law clerks and interns—which include law students, recent law school graduates, undergraduates and occasionally lawyers—answer calls and provide detainees with information on how the immigration court system works and what legal relief is available.

For pro bono attorneys and legal services providers who represent children in immigration proceedings in Texas, the Commission on Immigration offers the Children’s Immigration Law Academy. It is based in Houston and provides training, technical assistance and collaboration opportunities.

The ABA is also accepting donations to support free legal services at the border through its Working Group on Unaccompanied Minor Immigrants and Migrant Children and Family Initiative. The most up-to-date resources from across the ABA can be found at


In addition to the ABA’s initiatives, attorneys can look for opportunities with these organizations:

• Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services is a nonprofit in Texas that provides free and low-cost legal services to immigrant children, families and refugees. (Its Twitter account, @RAICESTEXAS was featured in the ABA Journal’s 2018 Web 100.)

• Kids in Need of Defense is a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., that represents unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children in their deportation proceedings. (The ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division partnered with KIND to train volunteer attorneys to represent unaccompanied children.)

• Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project is a nonprofit in Arizona that provides free legal services to men, women and children in immigration custody.

• Las Americas is a nonprofit in El Paso, Texas, that provides free legal services to detained immigrants and refugees.

The Commission on Immigration also provides a list of immigration advocacy organizations for interested attorneys.

See also:

ABA Journal: “$150,000 grant will bolster ABA’s pro bono immigration work”

ABA Journal: “ABA teams up with J.K. Rowling foundation to provide social workers to immigrant children”

ABA Journal: “Want to help at the border? ABA groups offer avenues to donate time and money”

To sign up for more articles like this sent directly to your email inbox via the Washington Letter, click here.