In this blog post, Immigration Justice Campaign Director Karen Lucas interviews recent family detention volunteer McKayla Eskilson about her experience, the work the project is doing, and the impact she had during her week at Dilley helping asylum seeking moms and kids incarcerated in the facility.
AILA member Rebecca Minahan shares how she helped one young family at the Dilley detention facility through the credible fear process, writing that while she “would most likely never learn of their fate,” she “felt honored to have been a part of their lives if only for a very short time.”
“I can barely handle being a prisoner here….”
Earlier this year, a young man called James* fled his country of origin after enduring yet another attack on his life, this time at the hands of his family members who learned he was gay. They also reported James to the police, who began searching for him because, under a law outlawing homosexuality, the authorities viewed him as the culprit rather than the victim of an unjustified attack. The writing was on the wall: if James stayed, he would surely meet the fate of his late boyfriend, who lost his life a few years before to similar senseless cruelty.
I volunteered a week in Dilley, Texas, at the South Texas Family Residential Center to give back to the immigrant community and the most vulnerable. While I was there, I also learned more about asylum law, which has made me a better lawyer. Here’s what I saw and learned:
Pro bono work is important. But, maybe keeping your practice afloat while following your conscience to increase your pro bono work is something you struggle with, too. Thinking outside the box of pro bono can help you figure out what YOU can do.
I took part in the AILA Annual Conference training for new chapter chairs, and as an ‘icebreaker,’ was asked to complete phrases handed out on little slips of paper. Mine read, “The best way to save….” I immediately responded, “One way to save a life is to be an immigration lawyer.”
Adapted from the installation speech of Annaluisa Padilla, 2017-18 President of AILA