Examining the Effects of Information and Communication Technologies in the Legal Representation of Latin American Asylum Seekers

Victor Portillo Ochoa, University of Texas at El Paso


The purpose of this thesis was to explore how legal defense nonprofit organizations (NPO) are using Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to provide legal defense for asylum seekers and improve the conditions of immigrants at detention centers. In addition, this research explored the impact of ICTs on legal defense NPOs, bottlenecks, and security implications when supporting vulnerable communities. ICTs profoundly impacted the way we interact in a post-pandemic world, and it presents new challenges and possibilities for legal defense nonprofit organizations that are helping vulnerable communities. This study consists of staff and volunteers from different legal defense nonprofit organizations NPOs across the U.S.-México border. Inspired by Participant Action Research (PAR) theory, I will use action research to find new possibilities guided by participants and participate as a facilitator to be critical about the possible impact of ICTs for asylum seekers and themselves. My analysis after working as a volunteer for a legal defense NPO for one year and conducting PAR interviews with staff and volunteers about their interactions with ICT, key elements were identified guided by community insights. ICT practices at legal defense NPOs identified as positive for asylum seekers in this study included: constant communication throughout group chats to keep information flowing internally and externally; conducting virtual training to reach remote staff and volunteers simultaneously; sharing legal information almost instantly over cloud services to immigration lawyers; and removing phone call costs to immigrant detainees, by implementing a direct line using a new digital phone system. These study narratives are critical to ensure legal defense NPOs staff and volunteers can improve in their efforts to support asylum seekers and immigrants at detention centers.

Subject Area

Communication|Information Technology|Public policy|Latin American Studies

Recommended Citation

Portillo Ochoa, Victor, "Examining the Effects of Information and Communication Technologies in the Legal Representation of Latin American Asylum Seekers" (2021). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI28869359.