Law firms, corporate legal departments and bar associations across Texas have started special pro bono projects to assist with the legal needs of migrant children flooding across the border, but the state’s highest ranking judge said Tuesday that many more in the legal profession need to step up.
In April, Greenberg Traurig, which has offices in Austin, Dallas and Houston, trained more than 100 lawyers to handle child immigration cases. The firm has already tackled 25 such cases.
Jennifer Tomsen, a commercial litigator at Greenberg in Houston, points out that there is no right to counsel in immigration cases, even though statistics show that those who are represented are three times more likely to be successful. For children, facing a daunting legal process without a lawyer puts them at an even more significant disadvantage.
Federal law establishes basic criteria that in cases where the “children have been abused, abandoned and neglected by one or both parents and where it is not in the best interest of the children to be sent back,” that the migrant juveniles be granted permission to stay, Tomsen said.
“We train our lawyers for several hours to understand the complexities of immigration law and procedures under the law,” Tomsen said. “The idea that a child will know and understand the legal standards involved and know the evidence they need to present to the family and immigration courts is a very far stretch.”
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