As KIND celebrates its 15-year anniversary, I mark my own 10-year anniversary at this ever-dynamic and growing organization. When I joined KIND in 2013, the practice of representing unaccompanied children was still relatively new, and KIND’s total staff was about 25. That all changed in my first year, when increasingly dangerous conditions in Central America culminated in a dramatic increase of children arriving in the United States. As I managed KIND’s small, but mighty, Washington D.C. field office, we faced an enormous influx of children arriving in the area. We struggled to meet the huge demand for services, our wait list at times stretching 100 kids long. Another year later, our team tripled in size, and we took on hundreds of new cases, opening a second local office to meet the need.
In 2017, I moved to a position at the headquarters office, supporting KIND’s offices throughout the East Coast to meet the ever-increasing demand for services amidst the tumultuous period of the newly elected Trump Administration.
In early 2018, I took a professional pause for personal reasons—the birth of my second child. When I came back from parental leave in May 2018 it felt as though our universe was on fire. Seeing children torn away from their parents and lost in the U.S. immigration system was unlike anything I had ever seen in more than 10 years in the immigration space. And I had seen a lot at that point, as an attorney serving refugees and immigrants at another non-profit organizations and then at KIND. I knew the government and the system could be cruel and dehumanizing. But here was something different, something so shocking in its scale, so brazen. Unaccompanied children came to this country alone and afraid. Those were the kids we served every day. I never for a moment imagined that the U.S. government would make unaccompanied children.
This was a juncture for me—I decided to lead our family separation response, not knowing where exactly it would take me professionally. But having met with parents at a detention facility during the height of the crisis—some who still didn’t even know where their kids were, I knew I had to do it. We’ve helped over a thousand people since we started, reuniting families, fighting for remedies for the harms they suffered, and fighting for their ability to remain safely in the United States, together. The work is still far from over.
In late 2018, on the heels of the Zero Tolerance Policy, the Trump Administration launched a string of other cruel policies at the border and again, we dove in. Remain in Mexico and other restrictions to access to the United States border left unaccompanied children tangled in the mix, caught in makeshift camps in border cities. Over the months that ensued, we formed KIND’s border team and launched our work in Mexico, the pandemic throwing us an extra curveball. Today, that program has grown to include three KIND offices and staff all over Mexico. That team is doing some of the most dynamic and innovative work for unaccompanied children in the region—serving children along their journey in ways I didn’t think were possible just a few years ago.
When people ask me what I like about KIND, I always say that one of the things I love is that KIND is ambitious. We’ve taken on a lot of challenges in the last 10 years, growing from a small organization with one main program to a much larger organization with many. From multiple angles, we’re constantly chipping away at the biggest obstacles until we find a better path for kids, one that honors the dignity of each child. When we tackle the biggest of monsters, more kids can sleep safely at night wherever they’re supposed to be.
Learn more about KIND’s family reunification work here.