2015 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Andrea Meza

Andrea Meza

City, State: San Antonio, Texas
Issue area: Immigrant Populations
Sponsors: Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld LLP

The Project

Andrea will coordinate and expand needed pro bono assistance to underserved vulnerable refugee families detained at the Karnes County Residential Center, a civil immigration detention center.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
In June 2014, the Department of Homeland Security resumed the practice of detaining refugee women and children and opened a family detention center in Karnes City, Texas. The location of the detention center, which houses approximately 532 women and children, is geographically isolated about an hour via automobile from the nearest metropolitan area. A group of volunteer attorneys began the Karnes Pro Bono Project as an emergency effort to coordinate pro bono representation of these families. Approximately 40 attorneys are actively contributing pro bono services to the Project. Due to the volunteer nature of the Project, in 2015 there will be a significant gap in legal services and support for the families detained at Karnes. This fellowship project is intended to fill that gap.
The Right Person For This Project: 
Andrea is the right person for the project because:
• She has worked in the field of immigration law for four years
• While in law school, she coordinated a variety of pro bono projects for law students
• She has seen immigration issues from the perspective of the Department of Homeland Security through her summer work at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services San Antonio Field Office
• She is a bilingual woman of Latino origin who has studied immigration issues and the dynamics of domestic violence, and through her experience working with survivors of domestic violence, she will be able to empathize with families at Karnes who are fleeing abuse
Plans For First Six Months of Fellowship: 
In the first six months, Andrea will:
• Recruit and train non-attorney volunteers to assist with weekly client intake
• Establish a process for reviewing intakes and regularly assigning new cases to volunteer attorneys
• Recruit new volunteer attorneys to represent detained families
• Directly represent women in Credible Fear Interview and/or bond proceedings
• Develop Spanish-language materials to assist women whose cases are not appropriate for pro bono representation in order to assist them in pro se representation
• Meet with supervisors from the detention center and the government to establish protocols that will facilitate pro bono representation

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