Three years ago, the Children’s Immigration Law Academy (CILA), a project of the American Bar Association (ABA), opened its doors in response to the thousands of children from Central America who surged across our Southern border fleeing prolific violence and abuse in their home countries and seeking humanitarian protections offered under U.S. law. Texas non-profits and law firms stepped up to hire new attorneys and represent more children pro bono in humanitarian applications such as asylum, special immigrant juvenile visas, U and T visas. CILA stepped in with a vision to empower those advocates with the tools needed to guide children through complex legal territory. Led by Dalia Castillo-Granados and Yasmin Yavar, two seasoned children’s immigration attorneys in Texas whose careers have tracked the “new” era of children’s representation after the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and the TVPRA of 2008, CILA quickly hired a small expert team who toured the state to learn more about the needs of Texas children and how CILA could best share its expertise. Through our work providing technical assistance, training new and seasoned attorneys, and coordinating attorney working groups, we have learned that Texas UC advocates are true champions in the field, blazing new trails to define what it means to advocate for unaccompanied children (UC).
In the past three years, CILA has empowered more than 1000 Texas UC Champions! Since late 2015, CILA has:
- Answered more than 1000 case specific technical assistance questions from non-profit, private, and pro bono attorneys representing children in immigration proceedings across the state of Texas
- Planned and/or presented in more than 100 trainings on topics related to children’s immigration by the Supreme Court of Texas Children’s Commission, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, LeadershipSBOT, the ABA Commission on Immigration, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and various other community and academic institutions including our own in-house trainings:
- 12 in-house webinars on topics related to children’s immigration, all of which are available on our website
- 7 day-long trainings at South Texas College of Law-Houston covering a range of topics related to children’s immigration, many of which are available on our website
- 2 three-day trial skills trainings in conjunction with National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA)
- 3 three-day intensive boot camps for new attorneys and staff members working in ORR children’s shelters in a three day intensive boot camp
- Multiple trainings to new staff and pro bono attorneys serving the government’s Emergency Reception Centers in Texas and Florida.
- Published four chapters of a Core Curriculum for managers and supervisors to use for training within their organizations
- Coordinated 10 statewide asylum working group meetings, 11 statewide SIJS working group meetings, 16 Houston SIJS Working Group meetings
- Created a resource bank housed on our website, www.cilacademy.org.
Violent conditions in Central America persist while the due process challenges for children in immigration proceedings have grown. Texas has become the epicenter of the battle to maintain much needed protections for unaccompanied children. At CILA, we are humbled every day by the resilience and courage of children who seek protection under U.S. law and the hard work and dedication of the attorneys who represent them with courage, competency, compassion, and creativity. We remain dedicated to providing a consistent baseline of excellent resources, as well as thoughtful and quick responses to the volatile implementation of policies affecting children.
The CILA Team
(Dalia, Yasmin, Victoria, Chloe and Angelica)
P.S. For more information on how to become a Texas UC Champion and the resources we offer, please visit our website, www.cilacademy.org