close up photo of parent holding small child.

“These asylum seekers were not risking their lives and those of their children for the promise of economic opportunity; they were fleeing for their lives.” - Rosellen Marohn, 2L at University at Buffalo School of Law. (Photo by Ricky Turner on Unsplash)

Providing Legal Aid to Asylum Seekers

Published May 9, 2019

On April 11, 2019, Rosellen Marohn wrote in the New York Law Journal about her experience providing legal aid to asylum seekers on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Through the UB School of Law U.S.-Mexico Border Clinic, she and five other law students assisted nearly 40 asylum seekers in one week. With the sheer number of people seeking asylum, it may seem like a drop in the bucket - but for the families who wouldn’t have had representation otherwise, their efforts are invaluable.

What do asylum & immigration lawyers do at the U.S.-Mexico border?

Lawyers, volunteers, and students work tirelessly to provide legal consultation to the busloads of people who arrive daily at the South Texas Family Residential Center. They prep asylum seekers for “credible fear” interviews that measure the worthiness of tragedies. Only 5% of asylum seekers without legal representation win their credible fear interviews.

Those who provide legal aid at the border advocate for some of the most vulnerable people on American soil. Since they aren’t citizens, asylum seekers don’t have access to the most basic legal representation.

With the efforts from volunteers and groups like the UB Law U.S.-Mexico Border Clinic, successful credible fear interviews increase to 50%.

What is the UB School of Law U.S.-Mexico Border Clinic?

“U.S. asylum law is a complex, convoluted and rapidly changing area of practice, even for those in the legal field.” - Rosellen Marohn

The U.S.-Mexico Border Clinic is an experiential course in which students complete two weeks of intensive study in refugee and asylum law and practice followed by one week in the South Texas Family Detention Center in Dilley, Texas representing asylum seekers.

During the week in Texas, students represent asylum-seekers, including families and children, from Central America and around the world in their initial interviews with asylum officers as well as bond hearings and asylum trials in immigration court.

“My classmates and I spent our winter break preparing for the one-week trip to Dilly where we would provide volunteer legal services to detained asylum seekers. Our training included an immigration law boot camp class where we learned the complexities and intricacies of asylum law in the United States. By noon on the third day of our trip, I was advocating for a client’s safety and well-being." - Rosellen Marohn

Why do we need a U.S.-Mexico Border Clinic?

This year, hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing violence in Central America will cross the U.S.-Mexico border, seeking asylum. Many of these refugees are parents, who have left their homes in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, to protect their children from kidnapping, gang conscription, and sexual assault.

Many families with children will be detained at the South Texas Family Detention Center in Dilley, Texas, where the CARA Pro Bono Project has represented asylum-seekers at the facility since 2015. Ninety percent of those seeking asylum will pass their initial asylum screening, but they need legal representation to ultimately prevail on their claim of asylum. Without an attorney, 95% will lose their cases. With an attorney, almost half will win.

Learn more about the University at Buffalo School of Law’s U.S.-Mexico Border Clinic.

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Guest blogger Ashley Wilson-Rew is Content Strategist & SEM at protocol 80, Inc.


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