American Bar Association Commission on Immigration

 

The American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Immigration directs the ABA's efforts to ensure fair treatment and full due process rights for immigrants and refugees within the United States. Pro bono programs operated by the Commission include the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR), the Immigration Justice Project (IJP) of San Diego, the Detention Standards Implementation Initiative (DSII), and The Fight Notario Fraud (FNF) Project. To learn more, visit the ABA Commission on Immigration.

 

South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR)
Harlingen, Texas

South Texas remains one of the nation's largest immigration detention sites. Because of its isolated location, the Commission's South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR) recruits volunteer lawyers and law students from across the country to help. The project works 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. 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. There are a number of ways you can volunteer to assist in this important work: long-term attorney volunteers stay in South Texas for a period of two weeks, a month, or longer, and handle a number of cases in immigration court; short-term attorney volunteers are assigned one or more asylum cases in advance and travel to South Texas to represent detained asylum seekers at their immigration court hearings; law students, recent law school graduates, legal assistants, and interpreters, under attorney supervision, help complete applications, develop supporting documentation and legal memoranda, and prepare applicants to testify at their hearings; volunteer attorneys outside of South Texas represent on appeal applicants denied asylum in the immigration courts, or assist persons applying for asylum in their own communities; experienced immigration attorneys present training seminars and serve as attorney mentors to ProBAR volunteers. For more information contact probar@abaprobar.org.

Immigration Justice Project (IJP) of San Diego
San Diego, California

The IJP offers a range of pro bono opportunities including both trial and appellate opportunities for the full range of immigration cases. The Project has matched well over 100 men and women with volunteer counsel since its launch in 2008. The IJP provides ongoing support to attorneys who accept IJP pro bono cases. That support includes matching an experienced immigration practitioner to mentor the pro bono attorney, providing ongoing technical assistance and support from the IJP staff, and the opportunity to participate in free training. The IJP regularly schedules training sessions on various topics in immigration law, and collaborates with the Executive Office for Immigration Review to schedule Model Hearing Programs conducted by immigration judges. Finally, the IJP provides malpractice insurance coverage, if needed. There are a number of ways to volunteer to assist in this important work: volunteers to take on pro bono cases at both the immigration court and appellate levels; law student interns to assist attorneys in screening clients, conducting legal and factual research and writing motions and briefs in support of ongoing court cases; translators who are able to conduct volunteer translation in any language. We have frequent need for individuals who speak Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Somali and Arabic; and, experienced immigration practitioners who are willing to train and mentor volunteer attorneys. For more information contact contact@abaijp.org.

Detention Standards Implementation Initiative

The Commission on Immigration has undertaken the Detention Standards Implementation Initiative ( DSII), to contribute to the consistent implementation of the Standards which govern legal access issues at all Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities and other facilities detaining immigrants and asylum seekers. Initiative participants visit and tour facilities and produce an official report for the ABA to share with ICE, with emphasis on the implementation of the legal access Standards. The Standards, which took effect in January 2001, are comprehensive and encompass a range of issues including access to legal services and materials, medical care, grievance procedures, and detainee transfers. Immigration detention has increased dramatically in recent years, in part as a result of 1996 immigration law amendments that mandated the detention of certain immigrants and asylum seekers. The ABA's Commission on Immigration recruits lawyers, law firms, and bar associations to participate on a pro bono basis in special delegations to tour and report on various detention facilities' implementation of the Standards. Delegation leaders are responsible for organizing a team of up to six volunteers for a facility visit and tour; researching the local detention situation; visiting the detention center; and producing a report on the delegation's observations for the ABA for advocacy purposes. Through participation in the Detention Standards Implementation Initiative, the organized bar and attorneys can help facilitate access to counsel and fair treatment for detained immigrants and asylum seekers. If you, your firm, or your bar association is interested in participating in this Initiative, please contact Bob Lang at 202-662-1008 or robert.lang@americanbar.org.

The Fight Notario Fraud (FNF) Project

The Commission on Immigration launched the Fight Notario Fraud (FNF) project in 2008 to address the growing prevalence of immigration consultant or "notario" fraud in recent years. Through the FNF project, the Commission engages in efforts to warn immigrant communities about the dangers of unscrupulous notarios, and to help them avoid victimization. More and more notarios are exploiting the trust of immigrants who are new to this country. Unfamiliar with our language and legal system, immigrants may be misled to believe that a "notario" is a lawyer. The consequences are often lost opportunities to pursue immigration relief because of the damage that an ill-intended notario has caused to one's case. Most victims do not have the resources to seek help. The Commission on Immigration website hosts a library or resources and consumer education materials for attorneys and victims of fraud, as well as a listserv, and a section for matching pro bono attorneys with volunteers to assist victims of fraud with civil litigation. The website has been incredibly successful; since becoming involved in this area, the Commission has been a front-line voice on this issue, numerous advocates, and members from state bar associations have reached out to the Commission for support on how to combat fraud. If you, your firm, or your bar association are interested either representing victims of fraud, or working on legislative advocacy please contact fnf@americanbar.org.