Documented: My Week at the South Texas Family Residential Center
30 U. Fla. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 99 (2019)
9 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2019 Last revised: 3 Sep 2020
Date Written: September 1, 2018
I’ve been a practicing attorney for fifteen years. I’ve been a law professor for nine years. In that time, I’ve tried countless cases of domestic violence. I’ve counseled rape victims and interviewed child abuse victims. I’ve meet with parents who have buried their children, and I’ve sat with families as they await news of their loved ones fate. I’ve terminated parental rights, and I’ve built new families through adoption. I’ve taught cross cultural counseling, and I’ve prepared my law students to make legal arguments in emotionally charged cases. But until last month, I was able to move on from my cases. I was able to separate the lessons I taught from the life I live. I’ve always been able to separate my work in the court and classroom from my life at home.
I couldn’t separate it last month, when I spent a week with the Dilley Pro Bono Project providing legal representation to detained mothers and children seeking asylum in the United States. As both a litigator and a law professor, I arrived with legal and life experiences that should have suited me well for the task at hand. However, I was struck by the overwhelming sensory experiences waiting for me on the ground. As I worked with client after client in a frigid government-run trailer hundreds of miles from home, the deep structural injustices facing my clients challenged my beliefs in the legal system, and my confidence in my own ability to effectively seek justice.
Keywords: pro bono, cause lawyering, immigration, dilley, family detention
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