Our juvenile efforts are led by the BKC director, David Walding. He has a degree in international studies from St. Edward’s University, with specialization in Central America. He has traveled throughout the region, and worked with the Central American immigrant population in the United States since 1995, handling numerous asylum cases, NACARA cases for Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador, and Temporary Protected Status applications for Nicaragua and Honduras. Since 2004,he has focused on juvenile cases, asylum, and trafficking and crime victims.
The Casitas program helps children by providing legal representation to abused, abandoned or neglected juveniles. This project will specifically address claims for Special Immigrant Juvenile (S.I.J.) Status, a special type of U.S. humanitarian petition, requiring legal representation in both family and immigration proceedings. We assist juveniles, families, and the state in navigating the complex intersection of family and immigration law, identifying the best route for meeting the juveniles’ immigration needs, and training the broader legal community in these proceedings. Unaccompanied Alien Children are one of the most underserved areas of immigration law, with over 50% going unrepresented, facing deportation and possible separation from family. It is also one of the most complex areas, making our services vital to the well being of these minors. Casitas strives to assist juveniles, families, and the state in navigating the complex intersection of family and immigration law, identifying the best route for meeting the juveniles’ immigration needs, and training the broader legal community. Our juvenile clients are primarily selected through referral by other agencies. In 2010, the BKC accepted juvenile case referrals from the U.S.Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), Texas Department of Family Protective Services, Travis County Family Court via the U.T. Children’s Rights Clinic, Williamson County District Attorney’s Office, AISD International High School, Hays ISD Communities in Schools, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, LifeWorks Youth Shelter, Casa Marianella, South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR), Center for Survivors of Torture, Greater Waco Youth Law Project, and RAICES Inc. Without our efforts, these cases would almost certainly have gone without legal representation for their immigration matters.
In 2013, The Bernardo Kohler Center hired a in-house staff attorney to handle all state court matters. Our lead Staff Attorney, Tania Rosamond, has over three years of family law experience and is one of the few attorneys in Central Texas with expertise in SIJ-related family court proceedings and has become the expert on S.I.J. in central Texas in regards to family court proceedings. Prior to joining the Bernardo Kohler Center, Ms. Rosamond was a fellow with the Office of Senator Jeff Wentworth, participating, in many bills during the 82nd Legislative Session and gaining legislative and government-sector knowledge. Through work with the The Innocence Project of Texas and Criminal Justice clinical programs, Mrs. Rosamond acquired over 600 hours of pro bono work involving the representation of defendants on misdemeanor and felony charges and post-conviction criminal work. In her position with the Office of the Attorney General, she acquired extensive knowledge of child support and parent-child relationship legal issues. With the addition of Mrs. Rosamond, we have been able to provide a full-service to the juveniles we serve.