Human Rights Initiative of North Texas

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Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, Inc. is a non-profit organization that provides free legal assistance and social services to refugees and immigrants in the North Texas area who are the victims of human rights abuses. It was founded in 1999 by attorney Elizabeth "Betsy" Healy and social worker Serena Simmons Connelly.[1][2] HRI assists clients through two main programs: the Asylum program and the Women and Children's program. The majority of legal cases are handled by a large network of volunteer attorneys.

Asylum program[edit]

The Asylum program assists refugees who have fled to the United States because of past persecution, or the fear of persecution based on one of the five protected grounds.

Clients in the program come from all over the world, including Iran, Pakistan, Cameroon, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Botswana, Egypt, Rwanda, and the Congo.

Women and Children's program[edit]

The Women and Children's program assists immigrant women and children (and in some cases, men) who are the victims of domestic violence, a violent crime, and/or abuse and neglect.

Agency activities[edit]

Human Rights Initiative of North Texas (HRI) has had significant growth as an agency since its inception in 1999.

  • Since 2000, HRI has trained over 620 legal professionals, and in fiscal year 2010, 143 volunteer attorneys assisted with cases and donated an average of 68 hours per case.
  • In fiscal year 2010, over 5240 hours were donated by volunteer attorneys with an estimated value of more $1.95 million, bringing the total to over $10 million in donated legal services since 2000.
  • On average, over 90% of HRI legal cases involve pro bono assistance.
  • In 2007 and 2012, HRI received the State Bar of Texas Pro Bono Award.
  • In 2008, HRI received the Arthur C. Helton Award from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). This is AILA's highest award in advancing the cause of human rights.[3]
  • Over the years, HRI has partnered with the University of North Texas, Southern Methodist University, and the University of Texas at Arlington to provide intern opportunities and possible careers for future human rights advocates.

2012 staff members[edit]

  • William "Bill" Holston, Executive Director
  • Christine Cooney Mansour, Legal Director
  • Kavita Khandekar, Director, Marketing & Revenue Development
  • Zainab Abdulqader, Social Services Director
  • Martha Gonzalez, Attorney, Asylum Program
  • Melissa Weaver, Attorney, Women & Children's Program
  • Elisabeth Hagberg, Volunteer Coordinator
  • Kathryn Sullivan, Development & Communications Coordinator
  • Sarah Pahl, Legal Assistant and Case Management Coordinator
  • Kristina Morales, Client Intake Manager & Legal Assistant, Women & Children's Program


  1. ^ Miller, Robert (2009-06-12). "Serena Simmons Connelly donates more than $1 million to Dallas Women's Foundation". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  2. ^ Miller, Robert (2006-05-14). "Agency Founded by Two Dallas Women Helps Asylum Seekers" (PDF). Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  3. ^ American Immigration Lawyers Association (2009-03-15). "Arthur C. Helton Award". American Immigration Lawyers Association. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 

External links[edit]