Los Angeles, CA – 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 Los Angeles 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 Los Angeles and thank them for their service to unaccompanied children:
Joseph Lee and Adam Lawton, Munger Tolles & Olson LLP
Joseph and Adam are steadfast supporters of KIND and the children we serve in Southern California. Since 2009, they have put their litigation talents towards helping children in need by taking dozens of cases, including complex matters. It has been a privilege to work with Joseph and Adam to champion the rights of unaccompanied children.
“When I hear what my clients have gone through, the terrible things they have suffered, I know I have to do everything I can to help them. It’s my mission and my duty – they deserve nothing less.” – Joseph Lee
“Helping some of society’s most vulnerable people navigate our complex immigration system is one of the most important ways we can bring about positive change in their lives.” – Adam Lawton
Milagros Villalobos and Sara Ciccolari-Micaldi, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP
Milagros and Sara are dedicated attorneys who are very thoughtful in their approach to their KIND cases. Their diligence ensures their clients receive the best outcome possible.
“One of the most surprising things we’ve learned about the U.S. immigration system is how incredibly complex it can be, which makes KIND’S work particularly necessary. Legal representation for pivotal moments—like court hearings and USCIS applications—is crucial, and we are fortunate to work alongside KIND in providing such representation.” -Milagros Villalobos and Sara Ciccolari-Micaldi
Jody Zucker, Warner Bros. Television Group
Jody is a leading pro bono attorney with KIND’s Los Angeles office for four years. He is dedicated to his clients and ensuring their voice is heard.
“My first client from 2016, a 12-year-old from El Salvador, has finally received the necessary approvals; we recently succeeded in terminating his removal proceedings and he is now eligible to apply for a change of status. With the help of my colleagues we have four more clients at various stages on the long road to documentation. It has been the most meaningful work I have done in my 35-year career and the support of KIND and their mentor attorneys has made it possible.”
Nelson Castillo, Esq.
For the last ten years, Nelson has helped several KIND clients obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and eventually permanent residency.
“As a solo practitioner, doing pro bono work helping KIND defend, protect, and empower immigrant children has been rewarding, as I have seen them overcome challenges and prosper. We have been fortunate and are grateful to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for approving our clients’ cases, giving them the opportunity for a better life. As a child immigrant myself, who struggled during my early years in this great country, helping vulnerable children and teens navigate the U.S. immigration legal system is a personal and important cause for me. In return, over the past 10 years, I have created meaningful connections and have stayed in touch with our clients, even after their cases have been resolved. For example, one of the children I represented, now a young man, is a U.S. citizen, has become an aviation mechanic, and is currently looking to buy his first house. Seeing him achieve his American dream has been gratifying.”
Jeanette Garza and Jose Geronimo, Munger Tolles & Olson, LLP
Jeannette and Geronimo work incredibly hard on the cases that the firm has taken on throughout the years. Jeanette and Geronimo are committed to the child clients and are instrumental in helping cases progress.
“Thank you very much for such an award that symbolizes a part of my life that gives me great satisfaction, that of assisting young people to live better lives and help them obtain better opportunities in this country. Over the years, I have received many blessings and hugs expressing the positive impact that a piece of paper has on the future of our clients and it has always motivated me to help more clients to achieve them getting that valuable piece of paper, a legal status to live here in the United States.” – Jose Geronimo
“Our pro bono clients have faced a tremendous amount of persecution and oppression. I am grateful for the opportunity to help transform the lives of people who have been so unfortunate. Undoubtedly, the greatest reward is when a client is placed on a path to citizenship.” – Jeanette Garza
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