Kate’s Fellowship challenged barriers to access to asylum and education for immigrants in Texas, particularly in the Rio Grande Valley, through direct representation, impact litigation, and policy advocacy.
Kate worked to reduce barriers to access to education for immigrant children in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. Immigrant children face barriers to access a meaningful education, including due to immigration status. As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted education in south Texas during Kate’s Fellowship, Kate worked on crisis response to the pandemic for immigrants in Texas, including children and families.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kate worked with Weil and ACLU attorneys to successfully secure the release of dozens of medically vulnerable people from immigration detention, in the putative class action case Vazquez Barrera v. Wolf. The case was the first within the Fifth Circuit to hold that those in immigration detention required release under the Constitution due to the danger of continued detention during the pandemic. Kate also litigated a related Fifth Circuit case originally brought without an attorney by a person detained pretrial, filing a cert petition with the Supreme Court.
Kate also engaged in extensive litigation on behalf of children and families seeking asylum at the Texas-Mexico border. She was a key part of the team that challenged the federal government’s PACR/HARP policy of holding asylum seekers in Border Patrol jails without access to attorneys for their initial asylum screening. She worked on the litigation teams challenging the rapid expulsion of children and families seeking asylum under the guise of public health. Kate then turned to focus on protecting the rights of immigrant children at the state level, in combating both anti-immigrant state policies such as Texas’ order banning travel by groups of migrants and efforts to stop honest education about race and racism in Texas schools.
Kate will continue working at the ACLU of Texas as a staff attorney primarily focused on immigrants’ rights.
Dennise will represent formerly detained and separated families who have suffered as a result of zero-tolerance border policies in their asylum proceedings, and will develop practice guides and accessible pro se materials to address common legal issues in their cases.
The zero-tolerance border policy resulted in the separation of thousands of families just last year. While public outcry has resulted in the reunification of many of these families, their struggle for safety and well-being in this country is just beginning. Formerly detained and separated families must now navigate the United States’ confusing and complicated immigration system as they apply for asylum. Unfortunately, these families are often dealing with procedurally complex asylum cases, and immigration advocates across the country are unable to meet their legal needs. Legal representation for these families is crucial, as fewer than 3% of unrepresented families in immigration court are successful in securing asylum nationwide.
Dennise grew up in Chicago with two formerly undocumented immigrant parents from Mexico. As a Latina and as a daughter of immigrants, Dennise is excited to begin her legal career representing asylum-seeking families with the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP).
Dennise will work to fill the gaps in representation faced by formerly detained and separated families by: (1) providing families direct representation in immigration court, at the Board of Immigration Appeals, and before the federal circuit courts; (2) developing practice advisories and templates to encourage volunteer attorneys throughout the country to represent other families who have similarly been affected by zero-tolerance border policies; and (3) creating accessible pro se materials to empower formerly detained and separated families to take control of their cases and advocate for their own rights.
Asylum-seeking families are tasked with rebuilding their lives in an unfamiliar and often hostile place, all while the threat of deportation and the return to the very violence they fled looms over them. It is a gargantuan task, and one that no parent, child, or family should face alone.
Dennise Moreno /
Equal Justice Fellow