ABA President Judy Perry Martinez spent the week of Aug. 26 volunteering with immigrants on the Texas-Mexico border – interviewing asylum-seekers in detention, providing humanitarian assistance to would-be immigrants in Mexico and touring a new, soon-to-open immigration court in Brownsville.
“I’m a big believer in the power of pro bono,” Martinez said. “One lawyer can make a huge difference in the life of someone fleeing violence and persecution. You can help even if you have no experience in immigration law.”
Martinez is not an immigration lawyer, but she and other volunteers received training and mentoring from experienced immigration attorneys.
This is the second summer Martinez spent volunteering with the ABA South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR). Last year, as president-elect, she and then-President Bob Carlson helped immigrants at the Port Isabel Detention Center and attended criminal hearings at the U.S. District Court in McAllen. This year, Martinez worked at the El Valle Detention Facility and was accompanied by ABA President-Elect Patricia Lee Refo.
Earlier this year, the ABA Commission on Immigration began leading weeklong trips for pro bono lawyers to help on the border in Texas and San Diego. In July, the ABA Children’s Immigration Law Academy began operating a website that matches volunteer lawyers with immigrant children facing deportation across the country. The website – Pro Bono Matters for Children Facing Deportation – is at cilacademy.org/pro-bono.
ABA Model Rule 6.1 recommends that every lawyer provide at least 50 hours a year of pro bono service to those unable to pay. The average lawyer provides 37 hours of pro bono service each year. “Just think about the difference one week of your time can make in the life of a detainee,” Martinez said.
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