This fall, the DHBA recruited volunteers to provide free legal services for immigrants detained in the Karnes immigration detention center near San Antonio. The following is a firsthand report from immigration attorney Amy Hsu on her experience volunteering last week.
At the beginning of December I spent a week volunteering at the Karnes County Residential Center through RAICES, where ICE is holding hundreds of fathers and their minor sons fleeing from Central America. Our volunteer group included myself, Gerardo Villegas (another attorney from Dallas), two attorneys from New York, a paralegal from Colorado, a social worker from New York, and a child therapist from Boston.
We spoke to the fathers, and sometimes the sons, to prepare them for their credible fear interviews, the first hurdle in the process to apply for asylum. Most of them had never been in contact in with an attorney before and only had a very limited understanding of the asylum process. They would have been completely unprepared for their interviews if we hadn't been there. Sometimes we would help RAICES with intake interviews as well. The day started around 9 am and didn't end until visitor hours ended at 8 pm. It was a very intense but very rewarding experience. Everyone that I spoke with was very grateful for the advice and assistance.
At the end of the week all the volunteers agreed that we would do it all again. One of the other volunteers is already looking to volunteer again. The RAICES staff is incredibly dedicated to providing access to legal services for as many people as possible, and it was a privilege to work with them. DHBA was kind enough to provide a stipend to cover travel and lodging expenses.