DDH is Fighting for Immigrant Justice.

Deportation Defense Houston (DDH) is a project of the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative, which brings together a cohort of immigration legal services providers: YMCA International ServicesBakerRipley, and Justice for Our Neighbors-Houston. Deportation Defense Houston provides detained representation through an innovative and collaborative approach that includes public engagement, the Immigrant Rights Hotline, a deportation defense legal clinic, and impact litigation. The cohort also works to educate policy-makers and the public about the detention and deportation systems through tours of detention facilities, presentations, and community outreach. Most importantly, DDH is responsive to the needs of the Houston community.

GUIDING PRINCIPLE – Deportation Defense Houston will provide free legal representation in Houston’s detention centers for low-income vulnerable immigrants, with a focus on protecting Houston area community members, taking on challenging issues, and being responsive to the network of community partners.

This project is proud to be a member of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative (SIFI) network. More information about the network can be found at the SPLC website.




Read our brief overview of the first year of the Deportation Defense Houston project (July 2018 through July 2019).

The Need

Houston has four immigration detention centers within 75 miles of downtown, with a total bed capacity of 4,114. Houston’s detention facilities represent nearly 10% of all detained immigrants in the United States. The need for legal representation for these immigrants is vast, especially for those who lack the resources to hire an immigration attorney. Only about 7% of individuals win their cases – the rest are deported. The detention and deportation of an estimated 6,612 Harris County residents per year has a profound impact on Houston. To learn more, read HILSC’s report: Communities Torn Apart: The Impact of  Detention and Deportation in Houston, published in November 2020.

There is no constitutional right to counsel in the immigration court system and so many immigrants appear before a judge without any legal representation. Local experts estimate that the representation rate for detained immigrants is only 10%. Multiple studies have shown that having legal representation dramatically improves the chances of winning your immigration case. In a 2017 study of the New York Immigration Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), which provides free legal representation to every detained immigrant in New York City, the authors found that in the first 3 years of the NYIFUP project, 48% of cases will end successfully for clients, meaning they will have the right to stay legally in the United States. This is a 1,100% increase from the previously observed 4% success rate. Having a good immigration lawyer is the key factor in being able to establish a right to remain in the United States.

It is fundamentally unjust for anyone living in the United States to face a judge without an attorney to help them navigate a complex legal system. There is no true due process in the immigration system and thousands of individuals are being deported every year without any opportunity to appropriately argue their case against their own government. The project described here seeks to improve this situation in the greater Houston region.


Deportation Defense Houston recognizes the huge harm deportation causes our community and values collective resistance – from education to advocacy to legal representation – to minimize the separation of families and the deportation of valued community members. DDH is committed to ensuring that access to this project is effective and responsive for detainees and their loved ones.

The DDH partners recognize the importance of implementing this project collaboratively, even though it presents unique challenges. Partners agree that there is value building community within the legal services organization, being in constant communication, and institutionalizing knowledge across multiple organizations.

With regard to DDH staff, we will work to balance centralized coordination with professional development and flexibility in pursuing their professional interests. Given the emotionally difficult nature of this work, we are committed to providing opportunities for self-care to this cohort.

Case Priorities

While our goal is to eventually have sufficient support to offer “universal representation” to all immigrants facing deportation in Houston, we are a long way from that goal. DDH has identified the following case priorities for representation through this project:

  • Individuals with ties to the greater Houston region (e.g. legal permanent residents living in Houston; business owners; parents of children who are in local school districts; recent arrivals who intend to reside in the region)
  • Particularly vulnerable individuals (e.g. LGBTQ individuals; unaccompanied children; asylum seekers; those who have been falsely accused of gang membership)
  • Individuals whose claims may be tied to impact litigation or hot button policy issues (e.g. individuals who have suffered abuse in detention; SB4-related arrests; DACAmented individuals; parents separated from their children at the border; individuals arrested in sensitive locations)
  • Individuals who are tied to community-based advocacy organizations (e.g. activists; members of immigrant rights organizing groups)

Get Representation or Make a Referral

Family Member outside Detention:

Person Inside a Detention Center:

  • Call DDH’s Detention Hotline directly by dialing 944 from the phones inside their dorms.


Free representation may be available to individuals detained at any of the four Houston area ICE detention facilities:

  • Houston Contract Detention Facility (15850 Export Plaza Drive, Houston, TX 77032)
  • Joe Corley Detention Facility (500 Hilbig Road, ConroeTX77301)
  • Montgomery Processing Center (806 Hilbig St, Conroe, TX 77301)
  • IAH Secure Adult Detention Facility (3400 FM 350 South, LivingstonTX77351)
    • For information about visitation, sending items to detainees, media, and FOIA, visit ICE’s facility website (this facility is run by ICE).