Alberto Garcia, a solo criminal defense lawyer in Austin and University of Texas School of Law graduate, had hoped to join students from the law school when they traveled to the Rio Grande Valley this week.
On January 6, some 30 UT law school students and faculty members left for the Valley to set up temporary pro bono clinics to assist youths who petitioning for relief under the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA) federal program. They are scheduled to stay through January 11.
In the fall, after Congress failed to pass the more permanent DREAM Act legislation, President Barack Obama implemented with an executive order DACA as a regulatory band-aid solution for children of illegal immigrants who have lived most of their lives in this country. The DACA rules allow those youths to apply to gain temporary legal residency in the United States. Garcia had participated in all six of the similar clinics for DACA applicants that the UT law school students and faculty, led by Professor Barbara Hines (pictured), had set up in Travis County before the holiday break. At those Travis County clinics, Garcia, the students and faculty, and other volunteer attorneys, helped high school students who were DACA petitioners complete forms and compile documents to comply with the program. Hines says Garcia stood out among the many lawyers in the community who chipped in, based on his persistence.
Garcia says he learned a lot and gained much from the experience, most notably, an opportunity to help young people, who, like himself, were not born in this country, but who, unlike him, had not had the advantages he had gained from his mother acquiring legal residency for him. “I have been a supporter of reforming our current immigration laws, especially for young people,” Garcia says.
So buoyed by his experience at the fall clinics, Garcia had wanted to go to the Valley this week but the demands of his criminal practice after the holidays made that impossible, he says. But Hines says other opportunities will arise for Garcia and other interested lawyers to lend a helping hand since, based on the success of the previous clinics, she plans to set up more in Travis County this year.