ProBAR serves thousands of children each year, most of whom reunify with sponsors to live outside of the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) while the child’s immigration court cases are pending. Children who have a court date scheduled in the RGV after they have been released from detention could be at risk of a removal order if they do not appear at the Harlingen Immigration Court. Meanwhile, the children’s sponsors may be unfamiliar with or confused by the process required to request that their case be transferred to a new court. To help take some weight off the shoulders of children’s sponsors, ProBAR has integrated interactive workshops via Zoom to help children and their sponsors complete pro se Change of Venue (COV) and pro se Change of Address (COA) forms, a necessary step to avoid a removal order in abstentia.
Legal education services for sponsors of unaccompanied children are a core component of the ProBAR Release Support team’s work, and staff feedback and interest in providing more interactive and visual approaches drove the creation of these workshops. During the virtual sessions, the team provides sponsors with step-by-step visual guidance and provides additional support by reviewing their completed forms. The COV and COA forms can be completed pro se (for oneself) by the child or by their sponsor without the help of an attorney; however, they are still challenging to complete. The workshops also provide guidance on how to mail out the forms. When filling out and mailing the COA and COV forms, it is of upmost importance to notify the Immigration Court and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) so that the child’s case may be transferred to the court jurisdiction that is closest to their new address. Furthermore, submitting complete and correct COA and COV forms is key to preventing in absentia removal orders from the Immigration Court in Harlingen.
The interactive workshops have proven to be successful and are a testament to the creativity and attention to quality in ProBAR’s Release Support team. ProBAR is very grateful for the work done by Release Support Associates, senior staff and supervisors as well as their ongoing collaboration and interactive approaches when serving so many children and sponsors.