While so much has changed since KIND client Erica* shared her story in February at a panel hosted by KIND and Refugees International in Washington, DC, the importance of protections for children alone and the impact of recent changes in policy on these children has not. The Trump Administration is using COVID-19 to decimate the United States asylum system under the false pretext of protecting public health. Its actions are further endangering the lives of unaccompanied children seeking protection in the United States.
KIND is pushing back on these policies and continuing to highlight the courage and strength of our clients, such as Erica, who fled violence to come to the United States from Central America when she was 15 years old. Her remarkable story and courage, as well as the bravery and resilience that shape the stories of each of our clients, is at the heart of KIND’s mission. Today we are highlighting her voice and invite you to join us standing up for unaccompanied children like Erica.
Erica’s voice was trembling as she shared her story with the audience of about 50 people, pausing several times before continuing.
“I’m nervous, but feel so excited to share my story,” she said.
After enduring a difficult journey from Central America, Erica was able to reunite with a family member in Washington D.C., who helped her find legal assistance with KIND.
“When I met my KIND attorney for the first time, I couldn’t believe it when she told me they’d be offering me legal assistance pro bono,” Erica said. “I felt so lucky and fortunate and a huge relief knowing that I wouldn’t have to pay for a lawyer. When we went to court, I never felt alone because I had a KIND representative by my side to help me with my case.”
Audience members and the other panelists were deeply engaged, clapping throughout her speech as she shared her successes in school; some in the audience were moved to tears. Erica later said that she was glad to give a voice to those who were unable to speak for themselves. “I feel so honored to have been invited to this event. I realize that not everyone gets the opportunity to share their story, and I feel so lucky to be among you today and be able to make an impact. My message to you is, if I can do it, you can, too.”
Erica concluded by sharing that she is a full-time student at Marymount University where she received a full scholarship. She is studying business administration and would someday like to work in data analysis.
“I just love numbers,” she said.
Once the panel concluded, several attendees came up to Erica to tell her how much her story impacted them. “Thank you so much for sharing your story,” one woman said. “It truly shows that anything is possible and personally, you’ve inspired me!”
Another woman praised Erica for her bravery and congratulated her on her academic achievements. Some asked for photos and others encouraged her to continue sharing her story.
Erica confirmed the power of stories and the impact of having an attorney to ultimately open a world of hope and possibility in their lives.
*Client’s name has been changed to protect her identity