Local attorneys receive training to help asylum seekers

The Austin Bar Association is taking action to help families separated at the border. They held a training session for local attorneys who agree to offer services, pro bono, to those asylum-seekers. 

The association could only take about one hundred attorneys for this training but many more were watching online. As a result, they anticipate having more than 500 attorneys trained and ready to go to the border to represent immigrant families.

Images of children separated from their parents at the border have been seen across the world and are pushing attorneys like Jerry Negrete to offer help. 

"I am a construction lawyer; I do not do immigration law. But, I'm a human and a mother and I am willing to learn all the rules and regulations in immigration law to make sure that these families get adequate representation because what it seems like right now, they're not getting any representation," says Jerry Negrete, Austin attorney. 

The Austin Bar Association hosted an asylum training for one hundred local attorneys at their office Monday afternoon. They say it was a must.

"Whenever there is a natural disaster, the Bastrop fires you might remember, the Austin Bar steps up to try to address it. This is our natural disaster that we're seeing right here today," says Adam Schramek, Austin Bar president. 

Each attorney committed to taking pro bono cases at a detention center, including the Hutto Detention Center in Taylor. We're told around 600 women are at that location, many of them from Central America seeking asylum and several dozen of them have beem separated from their young children. That is why professors from the UT School of Law Immigration Clinic went over the first part of the asylum request process which includes the credible fear interview.

"They have to show everything from targeted harm, they have to show that it's on an account of a protected ground... like their race or their religion or their political opinion and they have to show that the government is either involved, was unable or unwilling to protect them. They have to show that they couldn't have moved around in their home country," says Denise Gilman, clinical professor, UT School of Law Immigration Clinic. 

They say a quite stringent standard that has to be met before they even have a chance to present their case in immigration court. Professor Denise Gilman says an asylum hearing can take years and on top of that, she says there is a backlog of 700,000 cases. 

"There's been a whole lot of effort being put into the border and detentions and not corresponding resources put into the immigration court. So of course we have a bottleneck, where a lot of people are being put into the system and not everybody is being pushed all the way through the system."

The Austin Bar Assocation says they will be working with other bar assocations to do similar trainings starting next week.