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The Journal News: "Pace students, profs help asylum seekers in Texas"
Photo: Pace University School of Law student Katine Patino talks about the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project attended by law professors and students during spring break at the ICE facility in Dilley, Texas. (Photo: John Meore/The Journal News)
From The Journal News website, lohud.com:
Pace University School of Law students and professors spent their spring break with the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, providing legal assistance to women and children seeking asylum in the United States.
They volunteered to help Central American children and mothers housed in the country's largest immigrant detention center in Dilley, Texas. For a week, they joined the CARA Pro Bono Project to help ensure that clients who had recently crossed the border had legal representation as they begin to make their way through a complex asylum process.
Students and professors told The Journal News that despite a thorough orientation they weren't fully prepared to hear the tales of misery that filled their legal meetings with clients. Pace professor Vanessa Merton, who organized and led the trip with two colleagues, shared the story of a Salvadoran shopkeeper who earned about $30 a week. Gang members demanded she pay them $60 weekly or they would kill her daughter in front of her before killing her. She believed them -- they had already shot her father, brother and uncle to death.
Students met with many families who had just been released from two days in the "hielera" (ice box) or the "perrera" (dog house) — stark holding units with "extremely cold temperatures and where many children became sick, said Professor Vikki Rogers.
"I'm pretty impervious," said Merton, the faculty supervisor of Pace's Immigration Justice Clinic and the driving force behind the trip. Merton has worked with survivors of the September 11 attacks and Haiti's devastating 2010 earthquake. But, she said, "This was violence on a magnitude I never imagined."
As a result of their efforts, more than 90 women and children were released to join family members already residing in the United States.