Social Work Detention Response Team

The UT School of Social Work’s Texas Institute for Child and Family Wellbeing and St. Edward’s University co-developed the Social Work Detention Response Team in the spring of 2017 in response to the detention of migrant families seeking asylum, particularly from ‘Northern Triangle’ countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.  Given that Texas has a large number of immigration detention facilities, including two facilities that house women and children, social workers have been called upon to assist attorneys in helping detained migrants recount stories for the asylum process.

Detained migrants have a “credible fear interview” in which they have to explain why they are seeking asylum.  Essentially they have to show that there is a credible fear of danger should they be returned to their home country.  These stories generally involve intense traumas that migrants have not had the opportunity to process.  In many cases, they have difficulty recounting their stories.  Social workers are skilled in helping capture these stories while being mindful and attentive to migrants’ wellbeing. The Detention Response Team pairs social work students with law students from the UT Immigration Law Clinic to work in interdisciplinary teams at the Karnes detention center as a part of supporting women and children through this process.

Dr. Cook Heffron (St. Edward’s), Dr. Monica Faulkner (UT), and Ana Hernández (UT) coordinate the student volunteers interested in helping with credible fear interviews.  Once a month, the group visits the Karnes Detention Center.  Students who are interested in helping should:

1) speak Spanish;

2) have completed basic social work coursework on working with individuals in direct practice and ethics; and

3) attend a training prior to your first visit. Students will also need to receive clearance by ICE prior to visiting a facility.  Clearance requires copy of a state-issued identification and disclosing your social security number.

If interested, please contact Ana Vidina Hernández at



The Social Work Detention Response Team is a part of Girasol. Learn more:

Watch this video to learn more about Girasol
Watch this video to learn more about our work in Texas detention centers

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