Working with Detainees

There are numerous challenges involved in working with clients who are being held in immigration detention. Detainees may have suffered trauma before entering the detention center – and detention itself can be damaging to one’s mental and physical health. For attorneys, it can be challenging to visit a detention center and to communicate with a client who is in detention.

The resources on this page will equip you to handle those challenges. Resources here include an important presentation on working with clients who have survived trauma, as well as resources on handling secondary trauma.


Trauma-Informed Representation of Immigrant Survivors

Tahirih Justice Center

This presentation is not to be missed. Kursten Phelps and Archi Pyati of the Tahirih Justice Center provide helpful guidance on speaking with clients who have suffered trauma. Their insight includes practical measures you can take to build trust with your client, such as being transparent about your role and the immigration court process, having open body language, giving your client time and space to share information, and phrasing your questions in a more trauma-informed and non-judgmental way.


Secondary Trauma

American Immigration Lawyers Association Podcast

Secondary trauma is the emotional duress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand traumatic experiences of another person. AILA Associate Director of the Practice and Professionalism Center, Susan Timmons Marks, leads a discussion with Linda Albert, manager of the Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program, and Dr. Lin Piwowarczyk, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine, on secondary trauma in the context of attorneys working on the cases of families (including children) who are fleeing violence and detained upon arriving in the US.


Webinar on Family Separation and Detention

Immigration Justice Campaign

Thousands of immigrant families have been torn apart at the border in the past few weeks. Listen to this webinar to learn about the immigration detention system in the United States and the latest developments on family separation, the new Executive Order on family detention, and other critical issues impacting immigrants at the border, as well as how the Justice Campaign is mobilizing volunteers to help combat the acute need for representation in immigration detention centers.

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