Texas Lawyers Step Up

The flood of migrant children into Texas has presented numerous opportunities for volunteer attorneys to help assure that case filings and hearings are conducted fairly under the law. Non-profit organizations such as the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas and local branches of Catholic Charities have established programs to train lawyers unfamiliar with immigration law, while the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association and the Hispanic Bar Association of Houston are among the legal organizations serving as clearinghouses for attorneys willing to offer pro bono services.

The complicated immigration court process can take years, and statistics show that those who are represented by legal counsel are far more likely to successfully establish a case to stay in the country legally.

The Texas Lawbook reports that law firms such as Baker Botts, Greenberg Traurig, Norton Rose Fulbright, Holland & Knight, Littler Mendelson, Hunton & Williams, Jones Day, K&L Gates and Vinson & Elkins are holding CLE progams on immigration law to help prepare attorneys to represent migrant children and their families, while the corporate legal departments at AT&T and ExxonMobil are preparing some of their in-house lawyers to help out if needed.

The article includes a prediction from Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht that the wave of new cases likely to hit the state’s family court system will require hundreds, or even thousands, of volunteer lawyers in order to ensure that the cases are handled quickly and fairly under the law.

Chief Justice Hecht says that he and court officials are researching possible ways to pay for senior judges who can help handle the anticipated caseload jump, but the possible use of volunteer special masters is also being explored. “Most lawyers, especially corporate lawyers, are not familiar with these family law issues, but it is an easily knowable area of the law,” Chief Justice Hecht told Lawbook.

By putting aside politics and legislative proposals, and by facing the reality of the border crisis, it’s clear that many Texas attorneys are positioning themselves to assist migrants in navigating our country’s immigration laws. Kudos to them, their law firms, and the many social service agencies that are supporting this worthwhile effort.

Posted: 8/21/2014 1:28:02 PM by Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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