Texas RioGrande Legal Aid has recently been funded by the Jones Day law firm to help it provide pro bono legal services to refugees detained in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement jail in Laredo, Texas. TRLA seeks a bilingual Staff Attorney to work with asylum applicants, most of whom are women from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. They are fleeing from the highest levels of violence in the Western Hemisphere, but after a perilous journey are promptly jailed upon crossing the Rio Grande and seeking asylum. The vast majority of the detainees have suffered traumatic experiences, including sexual assaults, robbery, extortion, and other acts of violence, in Central America or on the trip north. During their confinement in the Laredo facility, the inmates are subjected to a “credible fear interview” before a USCIS asylum officer, the first step in the asylum process. Almost none of the refugees are able to navigate the process without the professional assistance of trained lawyers and paralegals.
Jones Day, a major international law firm, has undertaken focused pro bono representation of the detainees in the Laredo facility. The firm will be bringing partners, associates and support staff from offices all over the nation to provide extended representation to asylum applicants from the initiation of the process to its ultimate conclusion. The emphasis in Laredo is on the first step in that process – passing the credible fear interview. Follow-up representation will be pursued by Jones Day lawyers from its 18 US offices. The firm has asked TRLA, the general legal services provider in Southwest Texas, to support its pro bono efforts by providing on-the-ground services inside the facility.
All candidates should possess a sense of urgency to protect asylum-seekers from deportation, empathy, and the ability to stay calm and collected in the midst of crisis. The Staff Attorney’s work with detained families inside the Laredo facility will include, but not be limited to, the following duties:
Develop specialized knowledge of asylum law and expedited removal;
Support Jones Day lawyers and staff in their representation of Laredo detainees;
Make know-your-rights presentations in Spanish to groups of detainees who are seeking asylum in the United States;
Represent individuals who will (1) participate in a credible or reasonable fear interview with a USCIS Asylum Officer, (2) seek Immigration Judge review of a negative decision by an Asylum Officer, and (3) request release on bond after a positive credible or reasonable fear determination.
File relevant complaints with the Department of Homeland Security and the United States Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties;
Communicate with stakeholders, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services;
Collaborate with current community partners and form new partnerships;
Participate in community legal education. Prepare educational materials, make public presentations, and participate in TRLA outreach efforts;
Participate in other activities related to poverty law, including publication, permissible legislative and rule-making activities, media relations in accordance with TRLA policy and applicable laws and regulations;
Supervise and/or work with legal paraprofessionals and volunteers;
Assure compliance with grantor rules, restrictions and grant conditions;
Maintain accurate and complete client files and administrative records;
Prepare administrative reports;
Provide legal information and referrals; and
Fulfill all requirements necessary to remain in good standing with the State Bar and the Supreme Court of the applicable state, including but not limited to, compliance with the minimum requirements for Continuing Legal Education.
How to Apply and Related Timelines:
For consideration, applicants should email a cover letter, resume, and three references with “Attorney Position - Family Detention Project” in the subject line, to the following individual:
To: Monica Bustamante, Recruitment Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org
The consideration of candidates is ongoing and will continue until the position is filled. The position is available immediately, although the start date is somewhat negotiable.
Licensed to practice law. If not licensed to practice law in Texas, willing to apply
Bilingual in English and Spanish
Ability to work independently and as a part of a team
Flexibility to work evenings and weekends and accommodate an irregular work schedule
A proven commitment to supporting vulnerable immigrant populations
Dedication to and experience in serving low-income populations
Experience working with survivors of trauma
Experience coordinating community services, working with community partners, and/or participating in volunteer-based projects
Additional Salary Information: Salary commensurate with experience, plus an excellent fringe benefits package.
Established in 1970, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) is a nonprofit organization that provides free civil legal services to low-income and disadvantaged clients in a 68-county service area that covers the southwestern third of the state of Texas, including the entire Texas-Mexico border region. TRLA also serves migrant and seasonal farm workers throughout Texas and six southern states (Louisiana..., Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky). The 68 county service area includes the cities of San Antonio, Austin, Victoria, Corpus Christi, Laredo, El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley.
TRLA's staff includes approximately 170 lawyers and 55 paralegals and social workers located in 19 offices throughout the state. Program headquarters are in Weslaco, in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, with branch offices located in Austin, El Paso, Corpus Christi, Dallas, San Diego, San Antonio, Del Rio, Eagle Pass, Harlingen, Edinburg, Laredo, Sinton, and Victoria. TRLA also houses its Southern Migrant Legal Services Project out of an office in Nashville, TN.
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid's mission is to promote the dignity, self-sufficiency, safety and stability of low-income Texans by providing high quality civil legal assistance and related educational services. Migrant and seasonal farm workers, domestic violence victims, victims of elder abuse, the homeless, and displaced workers are among the many clients served each year by TRLA staff. Cases range from routine family law counseling to complex litigation in state and federal courts from the local Justice of the Peace to the United States Supreme Court. TRLA is the largest legal aid provider in Texas, and the third largest of its kind in the entire U.S.