RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) was founded in 1986 in response to the needs of Central Americans from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua who were fleeing civil war and social upheavals. Now in its third decade, RAICES has a dedicated legal team, integrated with volunteers. Our services include assisting: asylum seekers, detained children and women, survivors of crime and/or torture, and low-income immigrants.
Family Detention and the Karnes Pro Bono Project
The Karnes Pro Bono Project was launched in 2014 by a group of attorneys committed to serving the legal needs of women and children in family detention. The project has since come under the direction of RAICES, providing free legal services to detainees in the Karnes Detention Center. The detained women and children are forced to pass a credible or reasonable fear interview before they can be released to pursue asylum. The failure to meet requirements for asylum can lead to deportation, which can mean a return to danger and even death.
What is Asylum?
Asylum is a legal status designated to give protection from deportation to those who have a well-founded fear of persecution in their country of origin based on race, nationality, religion, political opinion, or membership of a particular social group.
Who are Asylum Seekers?
While asylum-seekers come from all parts of the world, the vast majority of the families we serve are women and their children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, an area in which violence, impunity, and corruption are rampant.
Our greatest need is for Spanish speaking attorneys with an immigration background, but we also welcome Spanish speaking volunteers who are not attorneys.
If you do not speak Spanish, you must bring an interpreter.
You must be 18 years or older to volunteer.
Transportation needs within San Antonio must be coordinated prior to arrival. Carpools from San Antonio to Karnes may be available but not guaranteed.
Volunteers must be self-funded.
If you have a particular skill or background (i.e. medical work, social work, rare language speaker) we can work with you to find ways to use your specific expertise.
We are constantly in need of volunteer interpreters, especially rare language or indigenous language speakers. We often have a need for proficient speakers of Portuguese, Arabic, Urdu, K’iche, Kreyol, and Armenian to name just a few.
In the 2016-2017 calendar year, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras were deemed one of the most dangerous places in the world, “with more people killed there than in most conflict zones globally.” Gender based violence is unbelievably prominent, with 12 women and girls murdered every day due to their gender. Most gender-based crimes go unpunished.
As a volunteer you can help the women and children on their journeys fleeing from imminent danger imposed by gangs, corruption, and other forms of violence.
You can continue your involvement after volunteering in Karnes. Become an advocate in your local community to help the asylum seekers integrate into society post-release with the RAP program. There are a variety of ways to get involved, from helping with something as simple as a carpool, to interpreting, and more.