Dilley Pro Bono Project
The Dilley Pro Bono Project (DPBP) is a local partner in the Immigration Justice Campaign. Its mission is to serve the immigrant mothers and children detained at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, TX. DPBP operates a non-traditional pro bono model of legal services that directly represents immigrant mothers and children. Most of these families are fleeing extreme violence in Central America and elsewhere. They are in the United States seeking asylum.
To volunteer, sign up for the Campaign and apply below.
22 immigrant mothers previously separated from their children and now detained at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, wrote letters to the public about being forcibly separated from their children by the government
On February 28, 2019, the American Immigration Council, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) filed a complaint with government agencies calling for the immediate release of numerous babies under the age of 1 detained at the South Texas Family Residential Center (STFRC) in Dilley, Texas.
Despite widespread public outcry, the Trump administration announced that it will end an agreement that limits how long migrant children can be detained, inevitably causing suffering for thousands of children who will be locked up for months awaiting their day in court. Prolonged detention has documented, harmful effects on the mental and physical wellbeing of children and families. Donate to the Dilley Pro Bono Project, and help us provide legal services to the very families who face prolonged detention as a result of this regulation.
DPBP recruits groups of volunteers to travel to Dilley every week to assist the pro bono legal team at the detention center. Volunteers are expected to cover or fundraise all their travel costs. At present, volunteer work includes:
- Conducting client intake;
- Giving Know Your Rights presentations;
- Credible fear and reasonable fear interview preparation; and
- Administrative help with scanning, copying, and filing documents.
Licensed attorneys are additionally eligible to provide:
- accompaniment to credible and reasonable fear interviews;
- representation in custody redetermination hearings and negative credible and reasonable fear review hearings before the Immigration Judge; and
- administrative appeals to the Asylum Office.
Licensed Mental Health professionals are additionally eligible to provide psychological evaluations in limited scenarios. When not acting in this capacity, they assist in the work described above.
Given that most of our clients are Spanish speakers, we can only provide a very limited number of spots each week for volunteers who do not speak Spanish. If you do not speak Spanish, you may have to be scheduled for a later week in which we still have room for non-Spanish-speakers. You will also be responsible for bringing your own Spanish interpretation or having remote interpretation available to you.
We expect our volunteers to commit to a Sunday to Friday work schedule from 7:30 AM to 8:00 PM with a mandatory training session on Sunday evening and Big Table meetings at 8:15 PM on Monday and Thursday night. The training session begins at 5 pm CST Sunday in Dilley, which is a 1.5-hour drive from San Antonio. The first working day will be Monday. Please plan to depart on Saturday, as we will work through Friday evening at 8 PM CST.
What to Expect As a Volunteer
DPBP is only able to uphold its promise to provide legal counsel with the help of volunteers who are flexible and willing to step outside their comfort zone. Volunteers need to be dedicated to working long and difficult hours (12-15-hour days, full of physically and emotionally exhausting work). During the week, volunteers will report to On-the-Ground staff, taking on a variety of tasks, some of which are listed above. Prospective volunteers should note that things on the ground can change rapidly and take on different types of works. The Dilley volunteer experience is life changing and you will be working as an integral part of supporting the On-the-Ground team.
Before signing up, we ask that listen to our informative webinar entitled, “What It's Like to Volunteer at Dilley." It’s less than 30 minutes and will provide you with crucial information as you consider taking your first steps on the road to Dilley
Additional Considerations: Criminal Background Check
The South Texas Family Residential Center is a jail. Like other jails, there are restrictions on who is eligible to enter the premise. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducts a criminal background check on all volunteers who wish to enter the facility.
U.S. citizenship is not a requirement to enter the jail. However, proof of lawful immigration status is required. Certain temporary visitors on non-immigrant visas (A, J, B1/2) and DACA holders are not allowed to volunteer. If you have any concerns about how submitting yourself to an ICE check may affect your immigration status, please consult an immigration attorney.
The Dilley Pro Bono Project Volunteer Coordinator holds office hours every Tuesday from 1:00-2:00 PM ET and Thursday from 12:00-1:00 PM ET. These office hours are an opportunity for interested volunteers to ask any questions they may have about scheduling or volunteering. Office hours are not held on federal holidays.
Office hours are held via Zoom at this link: https://zoom.us/j/8261537214. If you need to provide a meeting code, it is 826-153-7214. If you are joining by phone only (no video), call (415) 762-9988 and at the prompt enter the meeting code 826-153-7214.
Additional questions about the Dilley Pro Bono Project or the Immigration Justice Campaign? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.