Immigrant women and children detained in harsh conditions in Texas while they seek asylum in the United States recently received valuable legal assistance from students in UCLA School of Law’s David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy.

Led by Ingrid Eagly, professor of law and Epstein program faculty director, students Katrina Landeta, Kelly Miller, Sasha Novis and Heejin Hwang traveled to Dilley, Texas, in June to prepare mothers and children incarcerated at the South Texas Family Residential Center for their Credible Fear Interviews, the first step of the asylum process. Only those whom the government deems to have a credible fear of persecution or torture can then apply for asylum; otherwise they are deported.

“Every single woman I met had witnessed a murder or had family members or neighbors ‘disappeared,’” Hwang said. Like her fellow students on the trip, Hwang will be a second-year student at UCLA Law in the fall and is a member of Law Students for Immigrant Justice, a newly formed group dedicated to the rights of immigrants. “Some had endured years of physical and sexual abuse from partners or relatives. Death threats were the norm.”

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