Staff Attorney–Dilley, Texas

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) seeks a Staff Attorney to work with Central American and Mexican refugee families held in a private prison in the rural South Texas community of Dilley, Texas. The families, most often a mother and one child, are fleeing from the highest levels of violence in the Western Hemisphere, but after a perilous journey are promptly jailed upon crossing the Rio Grande River. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has contracted with Corrections Corporation of America to detain up to 2,400 refugees at any given time in a compound located about 75 miles south of San Antonio.
     The vast majority of the detainees have suffered traumatic experiences, including sexual assault, robbery, extortion, and other acts of violence, in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, or on the trip north. During their confinement in the Dilley facility, the inmates are subjected to a “credible fear interview” before a USCIS asylum officer, the first step in the asylum process. Almost all of the refugees are unable to navigate the process without the professional assistance of trained lawyers and paralegals.
      In response to the government’s inhumane treatment of asylum-seekers, four non-profit organizations, collectively known as the CARA Pro Bono Project (CARA), joined forces to assure detained families have access to legal services and to end the practice of family detention. CARA’s work ignited a national movement of advocates and allies committed to standing alongside detained families to defend their rights to due process and international protection as refugees. Volunteer lawyers from all over the country come to Dilley to join a small group CARA staff for an intense week of pro bono services. For a short video about CARA’s work, see:
     Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. began assisting the CARA staff in 2016. TRLA is one of the largest legal services programs for the poor in the country. Its 180 lawyers provide civil and criminal representation to the indigent residents of South and West Texas, including representation in immigration matters. TRLA seeks to augment resources in the jail in Dilley by hiring staff attorneys to sustain this critical work in the coming year.
     The Staff Attorney will work with detained families at the South Texas Family Detention Center in Dilley, Texas. The attorney will screen clients for eligibility, provide direct legal services, and collaborate closely with existing pro bono efforts. The candidate must be self-directed, creative, and motivated.  Among other duties, the attorney will:
  •  Develop specialized knowledge of asylum law and expedited removal;
    • Interview detained families and conduct intake;
    • Evaluate eligibility for relief from removal;
    • File motions for custody redetermination;
    • Assist and counsel individuals seeking asylum, including preparing for credible fear interviews and Immigration Judge review of a negative decision by an Asylum Officer;
    • Communicate with stakeholders, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services;
    • Collaborate with current community partners and form new partnerships;
    • Participate in community legal education. Prepare educational materials, make public presentations, and participate in TRLA outreach efforts;
    • Supervise and/or work with legal paraprofessionals and volunteers;
    • Maintain accurate and complete client files and administrative records; and
    • Fulfill all requirements necessary to remain in good standing with the State Bar and the Supreme Court of the applicable state, including but not limited to, compliance with the minimum requirements for Continuing Legal Education.


Required Qualifications:
  •  JD from accredited university.
    • Licensed to practice law. If not licensed to practice law in Texas, willing to apply
    • Bilingual in English and Spanish
    • Ability to work independently and as a part of a team
    • Flexibility to work evenings and weekends and accommodate an irregular work schedule
    • A proven commitment to supporting vulnerable immigrant populations
    • Dedication to and experience in serving low-income populations
    • Experience working with survivors of trauma
    • Experience coordinating community services, working with community partners, and/or participating in volunteer-based projects.
How to Apply and Related Timelines:
     For consideration, applicants should email a cover letter, resume, and three references with “Attorney Position – Family Detention Project” in the subject line, to the following individuals:
To: Monica Bustamante, Recruitment Manager, at
“cc”: Shalyn Fluharty, Director – Family Detention Project, at
     The consideration of candidates is ongoing and will continue until the position is filled. The position is available immediately, although the start date is somewhat negotiable.