Cornell Law Students Go To Border To Help Mothers, Children Seeking Asylum


Six Cornell Law School students and one of their professors have gone to border this week to volunteer at the country’s the largest family immigration center in Dilley, Texas.

They are working with the Dilley Pro Bono Project. The Project has been organizing volunteers since the federal facility opened in 2014. Each week a group of volunteer lawyers, law students, paralegals arrived to assist mothers and children file their asylum claims.

Dilley is a remote town of about 4,000 people over an hour’s drive from San Antonio.

Jaclyn Kelley-Widmer is an associate professor at Cornell Law School. She organized the students to make the trip. She said there’s a definitely need for volunteer lawyers at the border.

The asylum process isn’t easy to navigate. U.S. law allows for someone seeking asylum to have a lawyer but there’s no right to one so one isn’t provided. That means, they have to find and pay for an attorney.

“People who are unrepresented are very likely to lose their asylum claims,” Kelley-Widmer said. “And once people are represented the percentage of winning shoots up dramatically.”

Three of the Cornell students will be continuing their work at the end of the week in Texas. They will head to Tijuana to help people waiting to enter the country seeking asylum.