End of the day “Big Table” as volunteers discuss what they saw, learned, and felt over the course of the day in Dilley.

(With thanks to Sir Winston Churchill)

Last week, I spoke with some of our government contacts about the changes that are on the very near horizon here in Dilley. Due, I imagine, to the Congressional visit, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson’s announcement, and the Flores litigation, the asylum office will ramp up to 23 staff members next week. This is more than twice the number of asylum staff we have ever had. They will be using conference rooms and judge’s chambers as additional office space, and the increased number of officers will allow them to start conducting as many as 50 asylum interviews per day, including now conducting interviews on Saturdays. In addition, the Miami court will add a third judge to the Dilley docket in the coming weeks. We expect to reach facility capacity of 2400 detainees any day now.

All of this means we need to step up our game in a big way.

I can tell you in no uncertain terms that we are making a huge difference in people’s lives. There is zero doubt in my mind that there are children walking the Earth today who would be dead but for what CLINIC, AILA, RAICES, and the American Immigration Council have come together as CARA to do here. I don’t tell all of you often enough how grateful I am for the opportunity to work on this project, and for making this possible. Thank you. This week I decided that, having resigned from my firm in Ohio earlier this month, I will continue working here in Dilley indefinitely, beyond my initial six month commitment. In fact, I wouldn’t be anywhere else in the world right now, and I’m hoping to meet many more of you here in the coming months.

Here in Dilley we are waging a war. It’s a war against bureaucratic indifference, against a broken immigration system that tears apart families and costs innumerable innocent lives, and against the banal cruelty of mass detention. Upon the outcome of this war depends the survival of our notion of America as a compassionate nation. Upon it depends our ability to still believe that America is a beacon of hope in a world of persecution. The whole fury and might of the bureaucratic deportation machine is being focused here in Dilley. DHS knows that they will have to overwhelm us with the sheer number of detainees and the volumes of red tape, or they will lose this war. If we succeed, if we can stand up to this oppression, then all detained families can eventually be free, and we can transition the momentum of this fight forward to combat all of the other injustices of the mass detention of immigrants and minorities. But if we fail, then America may sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age of permanent family internment camps, made more sinister by the indifference or open vitriol of an American public callous enough to let this happen.

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that, if the CARA coalition and its pillar organizations last for a thousand years, it will still be said that “This was their finest hour.”

Please share this message, and I hope to see you in Dilley very soon.

Written by CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project Lead Attorney Brian Hoffman


If you are an AILA member, paralegal, or translator, who wants to volunteer at a family detention center, please go to the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project page or feel free to contact Maheen Taqui at mtaqui@aila.org – we could really use your help.

To watch videos of the volunteers sharing their experiences, go to this playlist on AILA National’s YouTube page. To see all the blog posts about this issue select Family Detention as the category on the right side of this page.