Every day, thousands of children are taking a life-threatening journey without their parents or caregivers to flee brutal violence in Central America. They are aware of the dangers, but many of these children, mostly from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, have told KIND that they had no choice. They are being targeted by gangs, narco-traffickers, and other criminal groups from which their governments cannot or will not protect them. To stay was certain harm or death, but coming to the United States offered a glimmer of hope for a safe and stable future. And once in the United States, they need attorneys to help them make their case for U.S. protection.

They are children first and foremost and deserve the care and protection that we give to all children. To help us remember this, KIND has launched a campaign that showcases drawings by children referred to KIND, accompanied by facts to help us understand why they need our protection.

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Children’s Artwork

Lawyers: "They’re the people who save all the children.”

When a 10-year-old client came into our Houston office waiting to speak to his lawyer about why he should be allowed to stay in the U.S., he was instead fixated on coloring the below Superman drawing, as many 10-year-olds would. He gave the drawing to our staff and asked if they would hang it on their office wall. In his first meeting, his lawyer asked him if he knew what an attorney was, and the boy’s response was, “They’re the people who save all the children.”

The first question a child asked their attorney: "You mean, you will walk in first, in front of me, when we have to go to court? You will tell me where to stand?”

For these children, having an attorney by their side means so much more than just legal representation. Alex Hess, a KIND pro bono attorney, shared the following story with KIND. After Alex explained who she was and some of the complexities of the legal process the child was in, the child asked “You mean, you will walk in first, in front of me, when we have to go to court? You will tell me where to stand?” Alex said, “Those two questions sat me back in my chair. That was it. If I was nothing more than a band leader, a marshal of facts, if I was nothing more than a microphone, it was going to make a world of difference to him. While we all strive for perfection and legal brilliance all that mattered to him was that I was there.” The hearts were drawn by a 7 year old client in Boston and given to our KIND staff.

"When I was in the immigration center, almost everyone was crying because they wanted their family to be with them." -Angela, 9 years old

For children fleeing violence alone, searching for safety can mean finding family and going somewhere where they have a connection to the home they once knew. The below child was so happy to find family in Boston after being forced to flee his home in Central America. Here in the U.S. he now has the support he needs to have a happy and safe childhood.

"I didn't know how to tell my story to the judge, I didn't know how to say it. But I'm here today because I finally was able to tell my story." -Norma, 16 years old

The drawing of a flower was given to our KIND staff in Boston by a child for helping her with her immigration case. KIND staff work hard to learn the children’s stories and to find a pro bono attorney to represent them in immigration court. We are so grateful for our passionate staff and dedicated pro bono attorneys for helping these vulnerable children every day.

43,378 unaccompanied children have fled to the U.S. for protection so far this year

50% still don't have a lawyer to represent them in immigration court. A 10-year-old KIND client in Seattle still remembers his hard journey to the US - the below drawing is what he remembers when he crossed the river at night; he was traveling all alone. Even at his young age he still remembers many horrors from his home country but he now is safe in the US. He was granted asylum and is able to have the childhood he deserves. Many children are still fleeing Central America in large numbers, and only half will have an attorney to help them navigate our complex immigration system. These children need our help. Without an attorney, only one in ten children receive U.S. protection.

60% of schools in El Salvador are affected by gang threats and violence

According to Insight Crime, the number of children in El Salvador abandoning school due to gang threats has risen dramatically in recent years. At KIND, we see children who just wanted to learn and go to school but couldn’t because gangs were targeting them and their friends for recruitment, extortion, and/or violence at their schools. A 12-year-old boy from El Salvador made the picture frame in school for our KIND staff in Newark. He has only been in the US for a year but is excelling in school. His favorite class is art, and he was just named “student of the month”. These are children first and foremost and many just want the chance to learn, grow, and be safe.
Read the Insight Crime article here

No matter where a child comes from, they are still children who need our help

A young KIND client in New York drew the below image of multi-colored hands coming together as one to help her. It is a beautiful reminder that these children, no matter where they are from, are still children and need our help.

Children should be playing games, instead many are forced to flee for their lives

During an intake with our KIND staff in NY, a sister (15) and her brother (9) drew their favorite Pokémon character, Pikachu, giving them a hug as a way to show how happy they are to be safe. Their drawing is especially relevant today as we see #Pokémon making a viral comeback with kids and grownups alike. For us at KIND, Pokémon is a symbol of childhood and a reminder that there are still opportunities for the unaccompanied children we work with to reclaim that childhood that was once lost.

“I am scared to go back because my aunt could hit me again. Here I have books, pencils, crayons and I know how to say words in English. I want to be here because it is very beautiful. I feel very beautiful having my dad with me.” - Jackie*, 10 years old

Violence and abuse are driving children out of Central America in search of safety. Jackie* came to the US when she was 10 years old after fleeing extreme abuse at the hands of her aunt in El Salvador. Once safe in the US, Jackie learned about all different kinds of animals in school. Excited about what she learned, Jackie drew the below images of birds, snakes, butterflies, and monkeys for our KIND staff in LA. Jackie is now able to have the childhood she deserves and we can't wait to see what else she loves learning about in school. *the child's name has been changed to protect her identity

Children without representation in court are 5x more likely to be deported back to danger. Every child deserves a chance at safety.

Happy 4th of July from all of us at KIND! Today, we reflect on the thousands of children who are fleeing their homes and see the US as a beacon of safety and freedom. Due process is an American value that we cherish yet many unaccompanied children are denied this basic right. Every child needs and deserves an attorney to represent them in immigration court. The young child client who drew the image in the left wanted to express how excited and happy he was to be in the US and can now live without fear, and instead with hope.

Central American has the highest femicide rates globally. Young girls are losing their childhood to fear.

Femicide is the killing of a woman simply because of her gender – in Guatemala this is carried out with shocking brutality and regularity and includes kidnapping, gang, rape, torture and mutilation—and near total impunity for the perpetrators. The drawing on the right is by a young client, and depicts the childhood children from Central America deserve.

Children should be dreaming of their future. Instead they are living in fear.

KIND works with many children who have valid claims to immigration relief because of the horrific violence and abuse that has forced them to flee to the US. Yet, 50% of these children will have no one to represent them in immigration court. The young 12-year old client from El Salvador who drew the below artwork, dreams of being a nurse one day and helping people. Now, she has a chance to achieve this dream.

Central American children are fleeing violence and seeking protection alone. All they really want is love and safety.

On World Refugee Day, let us remember both the children who have been forced to flee their homes and all they have ever known for safety in a country where they know few, if any people. Let us also think of their families who made the incredibly terrifying and heart-wrenching choice to save their child.

Every child should be able to go to school without the fear of being killed. This was her dream.

El Salvador is now the most dangerous country in the world - 24 times more dangerous than the US, based on the murder rate. Many children referred to KIND are fleeing this violence from which their government cannot or will not protect them.