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Human Rights First in Houston

Human Rights First  is excited to announce that we have opened a new office in downtown Houston! This office allows us to bring our unique, award-winning asylum pro bono representation program to the Houston area, where there is a great need to connect those fleeing persecution and violence with quality legal counsel.

Why Houston?

Watch a message from Human Rights First's President and CEO Elisa Massimino

Last year, nearly 1,000 people living in Houston sought asylum. Most of them did not have an attorney to represent them. We want to change that.

Houston is an international city. Thirty percent of its 2 million residents are immigrants, including many asylum-seekers. While the city’s dramatic growth over the past decade has created strong immigrant and refugee communities that contribute to Houston’s vibrancy and diversity, many asylum seekers have legal needs that are not being met.

Human Rights First has the tools necessary to connect unrepresented asylum seekers with pro bono attorneys in Houston who have expressed a desire to serve. For 35 years, Human Rights First has been the bridge connecting these two communities. Our pro bono asylum program utilizes a distinct model in which pro bono attorneys are recruited, trained and mentored by Human Rights First’s expert legal team. They are then paired with asylum clients who are in need of representation as they navigate their way through the United States’ cumbersome and complicated asylum system. Every year, Human Rights First ensures that more than 700 refugees are provided with free legal services donated by private law firms. These services have an estimated value of just under $30 million annually. We know from experience that legal representation is the single most important factor that can positively affect the outcome of an asylum case.

By making Houston our new home, Human Rights First will work to ensure that local refugees have a chance to access counsel and gain U.S. protection from persecution and violence in their home countries.

Snapshot: Houston

  • City Population:  2,099,451
  • 31% of Houston businesses are owned by immigrants
  • 968 residents applied for asylum in 2012
  • 75% of immigrants that are detained in Houston area facilities have NO representation

Seeking Houston Pro Bono Partners

Human Rights First is seeking pro bono attorney volunteers in the Houston area. If you are interested in learning more about asylum law, please contact us!

Our asylum pro bono model relies on pro bono power. Last year, our organization helped over 700 refugees and we were able to do that in large part because of pro bono power. The total value of donated legal services in 2012 was $29.5 million dollars. We are delighted to be opening up a new office in Houston because this is a great chance for us to make new connections and develop new pro bono partners.

There are many great benefits to taking on an asylum case – the first of course being, the opportunity to save someone’s life.

“I think the greatest thrill you can have as a lawyer is standing up in court next to a client who is seeking asylum and saying to that person: ‘You never have to go back home. You’re safe now’.” -Steve Schulman, Pro Bono Partner, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

But there are also professional development opportunities that come with asylum work. You will improve your transactional and litigation skills, you will gain experience working with interpreters and you will have a lot of one-on-one client contact. For more information on the professional development opportunities, please download our brochure.

Asylum Law Trainings

We are now offering asylum law trainings at various locations in the Houston area during the summer and fall of 2014. If your firm would like to schedule a free in-house Introduction to Asylum Law Training, please contact:

Jake Hofstetter
Legal Services Coordinator
Tel: 713-964-7000

Seeking Houston Advocates

Human Rights First Board of Advocates is seeking new members that are from the Houston area. We are looking to Houston’s community leaders for advice, guidance and support as we embark on opening up this new office. We want to tailor our new office to fit the community’s needs and we need local input to make that happen.

The Board of Advocates is designed to engage distinguished individuals from Houston who believe in Human Rights First’s mission and want to advance it by advocating for financial and other support within their communities and spheres of interest.

For more information on becoming a Houston Advocate or to submit a nomination, please contact:

Jennifer Rizzo
National Pro Bono Promotion Counsel
Tel: 202-888-7603

Information for Houston Asylum Seekers

Our Houston office is now open and we are accepting phone calls. If you are seeking asylum and need legal assistance, please email us at Houston@humanrightsfirst.org or call our intake line and leave a voicemail message: 713-955-1360. Please let us know what language you speak so we can arrange to call you back with a translator. We are not accepting walk-ins at this time.

[Información para solicitantes de asilo en Houston.
Nuestra oficina en Houston ya abrió sus puertas y aceptamos llamadas. Si usted está buscando asilo y necesita apoyo legal, por favor mande un correo electrónico a Houston@humanrightsfirst.org o llame a nuestra línea de admisión y deje un mensaje: 713-955-1360. No aceptamos clientes sin cita previa en este momento.]

Our Expansion in the News:

Human Rights First opens Houston office
Houston Business Journal, 05.30.14

Massimino, Guter: Human Rights First brings pro bono operation to Houston
Houston Chronicle, 03.19.14

Tex Parte: South Texas College of Law partners with Human Rights First nonprofit
Texas Lawyer, 02.24.14

Contact Info:

Houston office general inquiries: 713-955-1360
Houston office email inquiries:  Houston@humanrightsfirst.org