Frequently Asked Questions

We are no longer looking for volunteers for Phase 1. If you are interested in volunteering for Phase 2 or 3, please click here and sign up for one of our volunteer opportunities!

In your materials, you refer to three SIFI phases. What are those phases, and how do I learn more about each phase? The three SIFI phases are:

  • Phase 1: Pro bono attorneys observed immigration court proceedings at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia with the goal of increasing court accountability and to document problems with access to counsel; equal treatment of pro se litigants; and the conduct of interpreters, counsel, and judges. The four weeks of Phase 1 ended on April 14, 2017. The Phase 1 pro bono attorneys observed over 450 immigration hearings.
  • Phase 2Pro bono attorneys and interpreters spend six days at the detention center, assisting detainees with obtaining release from detention. Attorneys and interpreters meet with detainees, draft bond motions and petitions for parole, and represent SIFI clients in bond hearings. Remote volunteers provide necessary support to the on-the-ground team.
  • Phase 3Pro bono attorneys will represent individual detained immigrants in applications for defensive relief, merits proceedings, and appeals. 

The SIFI Guide for Pro Bono Counsel provides additional details about each of the phases.

Do I need to be admitted to the bar in Georgia? In order to participate in Phase 1, Phase 2, or Phase 3, you do not need to be barred in Georgia. Phase 1 attorneys will not be representing clients. Phase 2 attorneys are required to be admitted to the bar in any state. The Immigration Court at Stewart Detention Center, like all courts within the Executive Office of Immigration Review, requires admission to any state bar because immigration law is federal and administered through federal agencies. Phase 2 attorneys will be required to become admitted to EOIR and are encouraged to do so prior to arrival. In addition to completing the EOIR eRegistry form, attorneys seeking admission to the EOIR must appear at an EOIR location (generally, an immigration court) to complete the required USDOJ identification validation process. More information on becoming admitted to the EOIR eRegistry can be found here.

Phase 3 attorneys also will need to be admitted to the EOIR eRegistry. Phase 3 attorneys can get admitted pro hac vice to Article III courts for litigation (such as habeas petitions) and appeals, though some restrictions and fees apply. Admission rules for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia (where Stewart Detention Center is located) can be found here. Admission rules for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit are here (note that an attorney can get admitted pro hac vice on only two cases in the 11th Circuit).

How long will the three Phases of SIFI continue? The four weeks of Phase 1 court observation at the Stewart Detention Center ended on April 14, 2017. Phase 2 and Phase 3 are long-term commitments; we expect they will continue as long as the need exists. Pro bono attorneys will become even more critical to the success of SIFI as it expands to other detention centers. If your law firm would consider committing to a rotating schedule for Phase 2 (for example, staffing one week on the ground every two months), please email SIFI.

Do I need to come to Stewart for several consecutive days? Attorneys interested in volunteering for Phase 2 should commit to being in Lumpkin for six days (a Sunday training followed by five days of on-the-ground intakes and representation). On-the-ground interpreters are not required to commit to six days, and the time commitment for remote volunteers is flexible.

Though attorneys must be on the ground for six days, law firms may consider sending more than one attorney to fill a single volunteer slot. This will allow the firm’s attorneys some time during the day to handle ongoing non-SIFI work obligations. If you are interested in this option, please email SIFI.

Do I need malpractice insurance? Attorney volunteers for Phase 1 do not need malpractice insurance, since the central task will be observation and documentation, rather than representation of immigrants. We prefer that attorney volunteers for Phase 2 be covered by malpractice insurance, but it is not a requirement. Attorneys without malpractice insurance will be able to participate in all aspects of Phase 2. Phase 3 attorneys who represent a client in his or her merits will need their own malpractice coverage.

Do I need access to WestLaw or Lexis? Attorney volunteers for Phase 1 do not need access to WestLaw or Lexis, since the central task will be observation and documentation, rather than representation of immigrants. We prefer that attorney volunteers for Phase 2 have access to WestLaw or Lexis. We may be able to get some WestLaw or Lexis licenses donated for attorneys who do not have access to an account. We can’t provide Phase 3 attorneys with WestLaw or Lexis.

Where will I sleep? What will I eat? How will I get there? Click here to download the current SIFI Logistics Guide. Some of the details in the Logistics Guide will change. There are limited free accommodations available for attorneys with limited financial resources. Once you have been scheduled to volunteer, we will provide more information about logistics. We are also happy to answer other questions you might have. Please do not make travel plans until we have confirmed your volunteer slot.

Who can I email with additional questions? Please email SIFI with any questions.

Once I’ve indicated my availability on the schedule, what will happen next? Once you have completed your application, you will be prompted to provide the SIFI Team with information about your availability. Then, you will be contacted by a SIFI staff member to confirm the dates when your time is most needed. Once we have reviewed your application and confirmed your participation, you will receive information about next steps. For on-the-ground attorneys, the SIFI Team attempts to schedule attorneys in shifts with a cross-section of language skills and experience, and to ensure the attorney volunteers can meet SIFI’s ethical guidelines. Please do not make travel arrangements until we have confirmed your shift and instructed you to do so.

Do I have to participate in all three SIFI phases? No. As a volunteer attorney, you can participate in any of the SIFI phases. However, we recommend that volunteer attorneys who have never appeared in front of an Immigration Judge observe immigration court proceedings — either independently or through SIFI Phase 1 — before taking part in Phase 2 and/or Phase 3. We also encourage (but do not require) Phase 2 attorney volunteers to take one case through Phase 3.

Do I need immigration law experience to volunteer as an attorney for Phase 2 or Phase 3? No. While we encourage attorneys with immigration law experience to join SIFI Phase 2 and/or Phase 3, immigration law experience is not required. SIFI will provide training and mentorship for Phase 2 and Phase 3 volunteer attorneys.

Is there a need for non-attorney volunteers? Yes. We need interpreters (particularly English-Spanish and English-Haitian Creole, but also other languages), remote translators and paralegal assistance. Non-attorney volunteers can sign up through the Volunteer application.

How do I remove myself from the email list? Please email sifi@splcenter.org if you would like to be removed from the email list.

I can't travel, but I am available to do research and writing. Is there a way I can help? Yes! We need attorneys and non-attorneys to join our Remote Bond Team. If you’d like to join this team, please complete the application and indicate this in your answer to “At the top of this application is a brief description of volunteer opportunities. Please explain which position(s) you are interested in.” When you have registered as a volunteer, review the “Remote Bond Team” Opportunity for more detail on how you contribute to the team and sign up!

How do I get an EOIR eRegistry Account? Phase 2 attorneys will be required to become admitted to EOIR and are encouraged to do so prior to arrival. In addition to completing the EOIR eRegistry form, attorneys seeking admission to the EOIR must appear at an EOIR location (generally, an immigration court) to complete the required USDOJ identification validation process. More information on becoming admitted to the EOIR eRegistry can be found here.

In Phase 3, do attorneys represent clients in their appeals? Yes. When we pair a volunteer lawyer to represent detainee on the merits of the claim (i.e. asylum, cancellation of removal, U-Visa), we ask that attorney to commit to the case until it reaches its final resolution. We understand that some attorneys may not be able to make this commitment. We also will consider applications from attorneys who can only commit to the appellate phase of a case, but we cannot guarantee placement.