Boston, MA – As it prepares to mark the 12th annual National Celebration of Pro Bono at the end of October, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) today announced it is honoring outstanding pro bono attorneys in Boston who are providing vital legal services to refugee and immigrant children who come alone to the United States in search of safety. These attorneys, who serve as the heart of KIND’s mission, are volunteers who go above and beyond to help these children make their case for U.S. protection.
Children who come to KIND are among the most vulnerable in our society. Many have fled life-threatening violence, including gang and narco-violence in their home countries in Central America, and come to the United States in hopes of finding safety. They are not provided an attorney in their removal proceedings; without counsel, it is nearly impossible for them to navigate the U.S. immigration system.
“I could not be more pleased to honor our volunteers who truly live KIND’s mission – to protect unaccompanied children in their journey to safety,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “KIND’s volunteers are these children’s lifeline, providing legal assistance, interpretation, and other crucial support, as well as simply being a trusted and caring adult in the child’s life. These children have been through so much in their young lives, many fleeing violence and other danger, and KIND’s volunteers stand with them to help them access the protection they so need and deserve.”
Last year, KIND received over 175,000 hours and $103 million in pro bono legal services, bringing its total for pro bono services to more than 880,000 hours and $475 million in pro bono services since 2009. KIND’s pro bono legal volunteers do not need immigration experience. The organization provides expert training and mentorship for the duration of the cases. Attorneys who volunteer with KIND work directly with our child clients and gain valuable courtroom experience among other skills. Nearly all say that the most valuable part of their experience was getting to know the child clients and helping to change the trajectory of the child’s life.
KIND is thrilled to honor our 2020 volunteers in Boston and thank them for their service to unaccompanied children:
Blair Rinne, Brown Rudnick LLP
Blair has been a star pro bono attorney since 2014, generously volunteering her time to the representation of unaccompanied children through KIND. Blair has worked on seven KIND matters as an associate at Brown Rudnick, LLP. Not only has she been a wonderful advocate to her clients, she has provided mentorship and support to her colleagues working on their own KIND cases. We are so grateful to Blair for all of her support of KIND and the children we serve.
“I worked with my first KIND client for four years. On the day she received her permanent residency approval notice and I explained that she was finally getting a visa, it was so rewarding to see the joy and relief on her face.”
Justin Smith, Nixon Peabody LLP
Justin worked tirelessly to secure state court findings for one of his KIND clients before she aged out of eligibility for relief. Even while the courts were closed due to COVID, he managed to schedule emergency hearings and push the case forward. As a result of Justin’s hard work and perseverance, his client has the opportunity to remain in the United States with her daughter where they can build a life free from violence.
“It has been an honor to volunteer with KIND to represent unaccompanied children, helping them secure a sense of peace and security so they can move forward and not live in fear.”
Meredith Stewart and Debbie Panameno, Jackson Lewis P.C.
Meredith has demonstrated a tremendous commitment to KIND since it opened its Boston office. She has represented 13 KIND clients since 2009 and consistently takes a new KIND case every time she obtains relief for one of her clients. In addition to the time and energy spent on her cases, Meredith helped to organize a coat drive at Jackson Lewis, which kept many of our clients warm last winter. In recent years, Meredith has partnered with paralegal Debbie Panameno on KIND cases. Debbie has played an invaluable role in these cases. She is incredibly diligent, caring, and always eager to help her KIND clients.
“I would have to say that one of the absolute standout moments of my time working as a pro bono attorney with KIND would be attending the high school graduation of a Haitian boy who I helped to obtain U.S. Lawful Permanent Residence and then seeing him go on to college,” said Meredith. “He had been homeless, together with an older sister and younger brother, but saw the importance of getting an education. His incredible determination is something that I will never forget.”
“A standout moment for me was during a status hearing that Meredith and I went to with our KIND client at the immigration court in Boston,” said Debbie. “The client had finally been released from a detention center to the custody of his relative and it was the first time he was attending a hearing at the Boston immigration court. After being called up by the judge and a brief chat regarding his school enrollment and family life, the client sat back down next to me with the greatest sigh of relief. He whispered in Spanish that the judge was very nice and a huge difference from the immigration judges in the state where his case was previously helped. It made me realize that this whole process is very stressful for a kid and a positive attitude makes all the difference.”
Chao Huang, Dechert LLP
Chao has demonstrated incredible dedication and commitment to all his KIND cases. He has helped one of his clients not only with his immigration case, but also by collaborating with KIND in getting food assistance for his client when his legal guardian was out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After taking over two ongoing cases from another Dechert attorney, he worked quickly and diligently, and, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, was able to push one of his cases through the Probate and Family Court to get the special findings a few months before his client’s 18th birthday.
“Working on KIND cases during COVID-19 has been challenging as courts rescheduled hearing dates and government offices shut down or slowed down. These delays can have a massive impact on the lives of our clients and I have learned just how important it is for attorneys to stay on top of cases and move them forward as quickly as possible.”
Bill Lundin, Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy LLP
Bill has consistently demonstrated an unwavering dedication to his numerous KIND clients. He is always quick to reach out regarding any concerns or needs of his clients and has gone above and beyond in taking over cases in need of new representation. Both KIND and Bill’s clients are lucky to have such a zealous advocate!
“When given the chance and appropriate resources to succeed in American schools and workplaces, unaccompanied children can achieve at the highest levels and attain the English proficiency, resilience and in-demand job skills to unambiguously benefit the American economy. One of my KIND clients graduated high school during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visiting him recently in a socially distant outdoor setting, he showed me with great pride the sign commemorating his 2020 graduation, even if his parents could not be there to see his momentous day. Seeing his optimism, growth in English proficiency, and his unwavering sense that he can overcome this latest challenge just as he has overcome unfathomable prior life challenges, shows precisely why KIND’s initiatives and advocacy matter.”
Michael Jusczyk and Anne Dunne, Seyfarth Shaw LLP
Michael Jusczyk and Anne Dunne played a crucial role in persuading a judge to grant the release of a detained KIND client. They exhibited in-depth knowledge regarding the complex federal legal system and tactfully used their experience to litigate and convince a federal judge to order release. Both Michael and Anne worked tirelessly and demonstrated expert legal research skills, strong advocacy for immigrants’ rights and invaluable resources, all through the middle of a pandemic. Had it not been for their devotion, it is likely their KIND client would not have been afforded the future that he has today. Both continue to be outstanding pro bono attorneys and are actively involved in representing many KIND clients.
“I am humbled by the trust placed in me by KIND and all of my pro bono clients to handle such meaningful work with such direct impact on their daily lives,” said Michael. “As a parent, securing our unjustly detained client’s release through a habeas petition and reuniting him with his infant daughter–born while ICE kept him in custody–will always be one of the most meaningful victories of my career. I am so grateful to have been a part of the team that accomplished this, and I look forward to continuing to represent children in removal proceedings for years to come.”
“The release of our client from federal detention was a hard-fought team effort,” said Anne. “Over the span of six months, we prepared and filed hundreds of pages of briefing and supporting documents and argued before two different federal judges. These concerted efforts ultimately led to his release and reunion with his family. As a mother, the mission of KIND truly speaks to me. I look forward to continuing to work with KIND throughout my career and hope to encourage others to do the same.”
Celia McLane, Esq.
Celia is a warm and compassionate advocate who is fiercely dedicated to the cause of ensuring that no child appear in court alone. Celia is a former staff member at KIND’s Boston office who has continued to generously give her time through the pro bono representation of unaccompanied children. Celia currently represents three children whose legal cases could not be in better hands. In addition, Celia sits on the Advisory Committee for KIND’s Boston office and is a champion of KIND’s mission. Thank you, Celia for all that you have done and continue to do for our children!
“It is hard to point to a single example of what I have learned from working with KIND clients. My understanding and empathy for these kids and what they face expands each and every day. During the early days of the pandemic I saw how quarantine pushed every trauma button possible for a client who, at 13, had been forced into prostitution in her home country. While our community was feeling the weight of the stay at home orders, for this client, being told she couldn’t leave her home was triggering to a heart-breaking degree. Likewise, another client was forced to choose between staying safe at home or standing in line at the food pantry in a red zone. Despite these hardships, my clients remain determined, hopeful, and grateful. They inspire me to try to be the same.”
KIND’s presented its national 2020 awards to DLA Piper, Jones Day, and JP Morgan Chase. As dedicated KIND pro bono partners, these honorees have demonstrated in a variety of ways their extraordinary commitment to ensuring that unaccompanied children have a fair chance to make their case and are not returned to the very danger from which they fled.
Media Contact: Megan McKenna, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-631-9990