These Local Lawyers Are Helping Kids at the Border

Last February a group of eight attorneys traveled to Harlingen to meet with dozens of boys from Central America, all between 14 and 17 years old, who arrived by the busload seeking help.

News Story (Texas)

Gwendolyn Knapp
Houstonia Magazine
December 1, 2019

Tags: Immigration

Organizations mentioned/involved: Children’s Immigration Law Academy


The lawyers—volunteers from the Houston-based Children’s Immigration Law Academy—set up in the offices of the group they were assisting, ProBAR, a Harlingen-based pro bono asylum-representation nonprofit that suddenly had been tasked with meeting the legal-service needs of 4,000 unaccompanied migrant children.

Houston lawyer Liz Mendoza had gotten involved in the effort the month prior, after spotting a call for volunteers for CILA on a listserv she belonged to. The tent city in Tornillo, Texas [near El Paso] has closed and there has been an influx of children into other facilities around the country, the message read. Many of the recently arrived children are being sent to the converted Wal-Mart facility in Brownsville known as Casa Padre and other facilities in the Rio Grande Valley.

The attorneys were not permitted to enter the various Rio Grande Valley-area Office of Refugee Resettlement facilities where the children were being detained, hence the buses. As the boys arrived to the ProBAR offices, volunteers offered them fidget spinners. Aquí puedes jugar con esto, Mendoza told them. Here, you can play with this. Most laughed nervously, chuckling because it sounded like something an adult might say to a much younger child.