Houston, We’re Officially Open!
Last week, Human Rights First kicked off our Houston office opening with a fantastic party at the South Texas College of Law, where we’re now officially a resident of the 9th floor. More than 120 people from various power centers of the city – business, media, politics, academia and law – came to hear about the refugee representation work we’re doing in Houston. Many of the attendees are members of Houston’s legal community whom we’ll be enlisting to be human rights champions.
Our pro bono mentoring model is a great fit for Houston where the large legal community has a strong pro bono spirit. We pair attorneys with asylum-seekers and provide mentoring, training, and support to guide asylum cases to a successful outcome. CEO and President Elisa Massimino spoke to the crowd about the need for pro bono asylum representation in Houston, which has a large immigrant population and three nearby immigration detention centers. In 2012, nearly 1,000 people living in Houston sought asylum, but only a small fraction had lawyers.
We have already trained more than 90 local attorneys on the basics of asylum law, and we recently placed our first asylum case with a Houston law firm. Houston Staff Attorney Ashley Kaper and Legal Assistant Shelley Ramsey are reaching out to the local immigrant communities to spread the word about our services. Ashley and Shelley will be hosting asylum law trainings throughout the summer and fall to teach interested lawyers about the humanitarian protections available in the U.S. immigration system.
Our successful opening in Houston would not have been possible without the help of some terrific Houstonians, including our board member David Matthews, a trial attorney with The Matthews Firm. Board of Advocates member Donald Guter generously helped us to secure office space in the South Texas College of Law, where he serves as President and Dean. We look forward to recruiting more supporters and pro bono partners now that our legal representation work has begun.