Editor’s note: State Bar of Texas President Joe K. Longley sent the following message to members on Thursday.
This week I traveled to the border to learn how we can promote access to justice and the rule of law related to the separation of immigrant families. I met with a number of dedicated attorneys and organizations that are working long hours and pouring all of their energies into ensuring that children and parents are reunited and that legal rights are protected through due process of law.
I’m saddened to report that many children are still separated from their parents.
Attorneys who visited an adult detention facility recounted women sobbing immediately upon being asked whether their children had been taken away. Others described struggling to explain legal rights to detained children whose sole desire was to be back with their parents. These accounts are from pro bono and legal aid attorneys who are accustomed to working with clients in difficult situations; they said the sorrow they witnessed at these facilities was on a wholly different level.
Your State Bar of Texas exists, in part, to aid the courts in carrying on and improving the administration of justice and to advance the quality of legal services to the public. In that spirit, the State Bar is compiling a list of volunteer trainings and opportunities at texasbar.com/volunteer for those who would like to get involved in reuniting children with their parents.
By far, the greatest need is for Spanish-speaking immigration attorneys to volunteer their time at the border. Many organizations are also seeking monetary donations. The State Bar will continually update the volunteer webpage as resources and information develop.
In my presidential inaugural address last Friday in Houston, I said we are uniquely equipped to address the problems vexing our nation—including the current family separation crisis. This is not about politics. It’s about access to justice. The people involved in this crisis may not be citizens, but they are still entitled to due process in a land that values the rule of law.
Joe K. Longley
President, State Bar of Texas