AN INITIATIVE OF:
The Dilley Pro Bono Project (DPBP), a local partner in the Immigration Justice Campaign, operates a non-traditional pro bono model of legal services that directly represents immigrant mothers and children detained at the 2,400-bed South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. The vast majority of families detained here are fleeing extreme violence in Central America and elsewhere and are seeking asylum in the United States.
DPBP recruits and organizes groups of volunteers to travel to Dilley every week to assist the pro bono legal team at the detention center. At present, our work includes client intake; Know Your Rights presentations; credible fear and reasonable fear interview preparation; accompaniment to credible and reasonable fear interviews; representation in custody redetermination hearings and negative credible and reasonable fear review hearings before the Immigration Judge; and administrative appeals to the Asylum Office. We are also always in need of administrative help scanning, copying, and filing documents. Given that the vast majority of our clients are Spanish speakers, we can only provide a very limited amount of spots for volunteers who do not speak Spanish. If you do not speak Spanish, you may have to be scheduled for a later week in which we still have room for non-Spanish-speakers.
We expect our volunteers to commit to a Sunday to Friday work schedule from 7:30 AM to 8:00 PM with a mandatory training session on Sunday evening and Big Table meetings at 8:15 PM on Monday and Thursday night. The training session begins at 5 pm CST Sunday in Dilley, which is a 1.5-hour drive from San Antonio. The first working day will be Monday. Please plan to depart on Saturday, as we will work through Friday evening at 8 PM CST.
DPBP is only able to uphold its promise to provide legal counsel with the help of volunteers who are flexible, willing to step outside their comfort zone, and dedicated to working long and difficult hours (12-15-hour days, full of physically and emotionally exhausting work). During the course of the week, volunteers will report to On-the-Ground staff, taking on a variety of tasks, some of which are listed above. Prospective volunteers should note that things on the ground can change rapidly and there may be a need to be flexible and take on different types of works. The Dilley volunteer experience is life changing and you will be working as an integral part of the On-the-Ground team.
ICE conducts a criminal background check on all volunteers who wish to enter the facility. We have had many non-US citizens volunteer inside the detention center, including international students and DACA recipients. No one with A, J, or other visitor visas will be allowed to enter; neither will any visa or DACA holder with a criminal history. There are always other considerations to keep in mind when soliciting an ICE background check in order to gain clearance to enter the facility. If you are in the US on a visa or DACA, please let me know so we can plan accordingly.
Please note that these will be 12-15 hour days full of physically and emotionally exhausting work! It requires a lot of flexibility, resourcefulness, and an entire week outside your comfort zone. We have an amazing team on the ground to support you, but ultimately, you know yourself best and whether this is a commitment you can handle.
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Additional questions about the Dilley Pro Bono Project or the Immigration Justice Campaign? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.
Six Dilley Pro Bono Project volunteers report from their week on-the-ground with the Dilley Pro Bono Project
Have a question about volunteering? Need help? Contact us.
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