Andres Tobar and Ronette Kawakami
Andres Tobar and Ronette Kawakami at San Antonio Airport.

Ronette Kawakami, associate dean of the William S. Richardson School of Law, and student Andres Tobar will share their experiences as legal volunteers at a Texas immigration detention center, where hundreds of mothers and children are being held while they await adjudication for asylum. The event, open to the public, starts at 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday, November 21, in classroom 3.

Kawakami and Tobar traveled to the infamous Dilley detention center to offer pro bono legal assistance for people caught in one of the nation’s most heart-wrenching, ongoing human dramas. Legal preparation often may make the difference when asylum-seekers finally come before an interview officer.

The week on the Texas-Mexico border was a riveting example of real-world lawyering for student Tobar, who grew up in San Francisco. His mother is from Mexico and his father from Ecuador. Tobar translated for several daily group orientation sessions with as many as 30 people, and also translated the many one-on-one interviews that Kawakami conducted each day with mothers seeking asylum.

“We saw everything from babies up to children who are almost adults,” said Tobar. “This is one of the huge issues we tried to address–the separation of families.”

Added Kawakami, “After 27 years as a deputy public defender, I thought I was used to interviewing witnesses or clients, because everyone has the most heartbreaking stories. But I wasn’t ready for these stories that you just don’t hear in Hawaiʻi.”

For the full story, see the law school website.