Houston, TX – 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 Houston 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 Houston and thank them for their service to unaccompanied children:
John Craven, Shearman & Sterling LLP and Brianna Lozito
John and Brianna worked tirelessly in 2019 to prepare their client’s asylum application and were successful—their client gained much needed protection.
“Every child that is seeking asylum in the U.S. has a story to tell, and it’s my job to listen first and to make my client feel heard. Building that trust is just as important as putting together a legal argument. Our client had been uncomfortable opening up for several meetings, so in one meeting we switched the focus of the conversation from the case to just her, and talked about her favorite school subject (science) and what she wanted to do when she got older (work for NASA). This simple shift that showed we cared about her as a person and not just as a client was a catalyst to getting her to open up and tell her story. A story that, while difficult for her to go through, ultimately led to her successful application for asylum.” – John Craven
Andrew Knop and Hannah Warren, K&L Gates, LLP
Andrew and Hannah hit the ground running from the beginning, managing to obtain a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status predicate order within three months, despite the emergence of the pandemic during the middle of the process. They exemplify the type of work ethic and advocacy that helps their clients access protection amid challenging circumstances.
“Hearing the joy in our clients’ voices when we get to deliver the good news makes every bit of our pro bono work with unaccompanied minors worth it. It is truly humbling helping those in search of a better life.”
Mai Truong, K&L Gates, LLP
Mai is a senior paralegal. She has worked on nearly all of the KIND cases that K&L Gates has taken since 2015 and has been a major source of support to the firm’s associates. She was a key part of the support that made the Andrew and Hannah’s case successful.
“I’ve watched some of these children growing up right before my eyes. One particular client was a young boy when the firm took on his case. He was already a young man and father by the time he became a permanent resident. I would never forget the moment he came into the office to pick up his green card. He and I hugged as I handed him his green card. It was very special for me and I still get emotional every time I think about it.”
Read more about Andrew, Hannah, and Mai’s work here.
Amanda Halter and Ashleigh Acevedo, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
For many years Amanda has advocated for her clients and has thought outside of the box in her case strategy. Amanda has represented four KIND clients with complex Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and asylum claims. Most recently Ashleigh joined Amanda on her cases; their teamwork has been key in ensuring that their clients have a fair chance at becoming lawful permanent residents. Both have had to persevere on their cases at the state court, USCIS, and immigration court levels. In one case, Amanda and Ashleigh worked together to reverse a denial on a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status claim, a remarkable success and for them and their client
“Each of these kids needs and deserves zealous advocates to help them seek immigration relief, which has the power to set their lives on a path to safety and prosperity. The privilege of representing them is meaningful work, made all the more so by the high level of commitment and excellence set by the KIND attorneys who help shepherd the cases from start to finish. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with our KIND clients and KIND attorney colleagues to make a positive difference in these children’s lives.” – Amanda Halter and Ashleigh Acevedo
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, email@example.com, 202-631-9990