About Us

ProBAR staff at the ProBAR 30th Anniversary Celebration, November 1, 2019 in Harlingen, TX.

ProBAR staff at the ProBAR 30th Anniversary Celebration, November 1, 2019 in Harlingen, TX.

ProBAR's Purpose

Every year, hundreds of asylum seekers are detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement in South Texas. They have fled civil war, ethnic fighting and religious and political persecution. Most have little, if any, money by the time they arrive in the United States and are not able to hire counsel or post the substantial immigration bonds required for release.

Having language barriers, little understanding of U.S. law and court procedures, and few financial resources, they face almost insurmountable obstacles to proving their asylum claims. As a result, many risk being deported back to places where they may face persecution and even death based upon their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

The responsibility has fallen on the private bar to offer legal assistance to these individuals. ProBAR provides the means by which the legal community can respond.

With the immigration law’s harsh new restrictions on asylum, ProBAR volunteer attorneys are needed more than ever to ensure that legitimate refugees are not sent back to their oppressors. For many refugees, ProBAR is literally a lifeline. It’s in the highest tradition of American justice, and it deserves broad support in communities across the country.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy

How does ProBAR work?

ProBAR is directed by an attorney coordinator located in Harlingen, Texas. The project works closely with local community based programs, the immigration court, and the organized bar to identify detained asylum seekers who have strong claims to asylum or other relief under U.S. law but, owing to indigence, cannot afford to hire private counsel.

The ProBAR coordinator matches asylum applicants requesting counsel with attorney volunteers who are available to travel to Harlingen to represent them. The coordinator discusses each case with the volunteer and provides support and guidance throughout the progress of the case. To the extent available, each attorney also is assisted by a volunteer law student, interpreter or legal assistant.

The staff at ProBAR make every effort to select cases and tailor procedures to make efficient use of a volunteer's time in South Texas. ProBAR's offices are designed to provide a volunteer attorney with a place to work, office equipment, and legal research materials. ProBAR also provides liability insurance coverage at no cost to volunteer attorneys working on ProBAR cases.

ProBAR offers vital legal assistance to refugees from around the world who have nowhere else to turn. At the same time, it provides our attorneys with unique hands-on court experience. The volunteers return with invaluable legal training, greater understanding of U.S. immigration laws, and a dedication to human rights

Edith Hofmeister, Esq.

Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, L.L.P. - San Francisco, California

Who can help?

ProBAR is designed to utilize the services of volunteers who are not experienced in immigration law, as well as those who are. Attorneys need not be licensed in the state of Texas to participate. In addition, law students, under the direction of a supervising attorney, may be permitted to represent asylum applicants at their court hearings.

To learn about volunteering opportunities, please contact us.

Volunteer attorneys are key to this program. Nonimmigration attorneys may initially feel uneasy working in an unfamiliar area of the law, but with some training and guidance they can very competently handle asylum cases -- and appreciate how hopelessly lost a refugee might be without legal assistance

Marcos Ronquillo, Esq.

Dallas, Texas