One Year Later - Immigrants’ Rights Groups Providing Pro Bono Legal Services to Families Detained in Texas Continue Vital Work


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Washington D.C. - Today, the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project marks its one-year anniversary. Established by four immigrants' rights and immigrant legal services groups, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), the American Immigration Council (Council), the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the project, collectively known as CARA, provides legal services to children and their mothers detained in Karnes City and Dilley, Texas, and advocates for an end to family detention.

Through the concerted efforts of the CARA partners and the volunteers who have worked under the auspices of the project, the continued practice by the Obama administration of incarcerating mothers and children has been challenged again and again. Examples of CARA's work include:

  • Nearly 8,000 families had a CARA volunteer attorney to help them start the process of seeking asylum.
  • Thousands of mothers were taught about their rights and obligations by CARA project staff and volunteers, empowering them to become advocates for themselves and their children.
  • More than 700 volunteers from all over the country - lawyers, paralegals, translators, social workers, medical professionals, teachers, and more - put their lives on hold for a week or more and traveled to Texas to help protect these families. Combined they donated more than $6.75 million in volunteer hours.
  • The CARA team encountered inadequate medical care for detained mothers and children; families who were emotionally traumatized by their detention; mothers who experienced coercion after being denied access to CARA project attorneys; and the lack of adequate interpreters and language-appropriate services for detained families who speak indigenous languages. CARA filed complaints with the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and Office of the Inspector General to investigate.
  • Public outcry surrounding the lack of access to counsel afforded the vulnerable women and children targeted for removal by Immigration and Customs Enforcement whom the Obama Administration is rushing to deport.

Katie Shepherd, managing attorney of the project at the Dilley center noted, "The detention of children and their mothers is not only inhumane, it is absolutely incompatible with a fair legal process. Despite a federal judge's ruling that children must be released without unnecessary delay, and not held in secure unlicensed detention centers, the government continues to detain in an attempt to deter families from seeking protection in the United States. The impact on the wellbeing of these families is heartbreaking. We will continue our work and lift up the voices of these mothers and children."


For more information, contact:
Belle Woods, American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), or 202-507-7675
CLINIC: Patricia Zapor,, 301-565-4830
Mohammad Abdollahi, RAICES, or 210-544-7811

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 16033162.