When thousands of Central American children began flooding across the Texas border in 2014, the state’s legal community said it was ready to pitch in and help minors seeking asylum in the United States navigate a system that doesn’t guarantee a right to counsel.
Two years later however, some of the state’s top immigration attorneys say that promised help is slipping away as the issue fades from the headlines. Most of the children, including almost 50,000 apprehended in South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley since October 2013, must go it alone as they try to convince immigration judges they shouldn’t be sent back to the places they fled.
“The voluntary agencies and the law school programs have always been totally inadequate for that [representation], so it depends on volunteer lawyers coming to the rescue,” said Charles Foster, the chairman of Foster LLP, a Houston-based immigration law firm. “I’m guilty of that myself. When there is a big thing happening, we all seem to gear up, and then the level of attention dies down. And therefore, the amount of volunteer lawyers will diminish.”
The plan two years ago was to recruit attorneys who weren’t immigration experts but were willing to learn, said Benny Agosto, a Houston-based lawyer who spearheaded the task force created by the Hispanic National Bar Association to help the undocumented minors.
By Julián Aguilar for Texas Tribune
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