The Social Work Detention Response Team collaborates with RAICES and the UT Immigration Law Clinic to provide legal support services to immigrant women and children in detention. Interdisciplinary teams of social work and law students orient migrants to the credible fear interview and asylum system, assist in their preparation for the interview, and provide emotional support to women and children undergoing this process. The team has served an average of 15 women per month for over two years.
The UT School of Social Work’s Texas Institute for Child and Family Wellbeing and St. Edward’s University co-developed the Social Work Detention Response Team in the spring of 2017 in response to the detention of migrant families seeking asylum, particularly from the countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Given that Texas has a large number of immigration detention facilities, including two facilities that house women and children, social workers have been called upon to assist attorneys in helping detained migrants recount stories for the asylum process.
Detained migrants have a “credible fear interview” in which they have to explain why they are seeking asylum. Essentially they have to show that there is a credible fear of danger should they be returned to their home country. These stories generally involve intense traumas that migrants have not had the opportunity to process. In many cases, they have difficulty recounting their stories. Social workers are skilled in helping capture these stories while being mindful and attentive to migrants’ wellbeing. The Detention Response Team pairs social work students with law students from the UT Immigration Law Clinic to work in interdisciplinary teams at the Karnes detention center as a part of supporting women and children through this process.
Laurie Cook Heffron, PhD, LMSW (St. Edward’s), Monica Faulkner, Ph.D. LMSW (UT Austin), and Ana Hernández, MSSW, MA (UT Austin) coordinate the student volunteers interested in helping with credible fear interviews. Once a month, the group visits the Karnes Detention Center. Students and community professionals who are interested in helping should:
Have completed basic social work coursework on working with individuals in direct practice and ethics; and
Attend a training prior to your first visit. Volunteers will also need to receive clearance by ICE prior to visiting a facility. Clearance requires copy of a state-issued identification and disclosing your social security number.