A project of the American Bar Association, ProBAR was founded in 1989 in response to an urgent need for immigration legal services in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. At that time, thousands of Central Americans fled violence in their home countries to seek protection in the United States and found themselves detained in remote South Texas with very limited access to pro bono legal services.
Observing this need, the American Bar Association, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and the State Bar of Texas collaborated to create ProBAR as a national effort to coordinate and encourage pro bono representation of detained asylum-seekers.
Today, hundreds of thousands of migrants enter the United States each year to seek protection and opportunity by crossing into the Rio Grande Valley, and ProBAR’s location at the border places our work on the frontlines of immigration.
As the landscape of immigration law and policy have shifted, our services have adapted to meet new needs – adding a children’s program in 2001, responding to the “surge” of unaccompanied children in 2014, and adapting services to the needs of families separated under zero tolerance in 2018 and asylum-seekers placed in the Migrant Protection Protocols program in 2019-2020 and 2022. Our programs have also expanded to better serve our clients and community through the addition of a social work program in 2019 and in 2022 an Immigration Court Helpdesk serving people facing removal proceedings before the Harlingen Immigration Court without representation.
Through the years, ProBAR has consistently worked to increase access to counsel and ensure due process for immigrants in the Rio Grande Valley.