Newark, NJ – 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 Newark 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 Newark 2020 Pro Bono Attorneys of the Year and to thank them for their service to unaccompanied children:
Brian P. Morgan, Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP
Brian took on the representation of three siblings in late 2014 and has been a remarkable advocate for their legal interests ever since, taking a successful appeal to the New Jersey Appellate Division and as well as winning an appeal at the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office—all while also representing his clients in immigration court. Thanks to his steadfast dedication, compassion and outstanding legal representation, Brian’s clients have had their voices heard and are on the path to immigration status. For all the years of zealous advocacy on behalf of these siblings, Brian is deserving of recognition.
“The U.S. immigration system governing unaccompanied children is complex and intimidating, even for an experienced attorney. My clients would not be where they are today without the unfailing support of KIND’s dedicated professionals. I greatly appreciate KIND giving me the opportunity to undertake this representation and strongly encourage others to partner with KIND to assist similarly situated children, who should not have to go through this process without an advocate.”
Laura Hidalgo and Jonathan Beck, Merck
Since the spring of 2016, Laura and Jon have been representing siblings from Central America seeking safety. They have pursued every avenue of relief available to these youngsters, including a long battle to obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) findings before a state court judge in New Jersey. Even when the odds seemed stacked against them, these two corporate attorneys litigated before the family court in New Jersey with creative and persuasive arguments, ensuring a result that enabled their clients to secure SIJS relief before USCIS. In addition, Jon and Laura continue to represent their child clients in immigration court where they are ready to press their case for asylum. Over the years, this special team continues to support, protect, and preserve these youngsters’ legal rights, with compassion, talent and always a sense of humor. We greatly appreciate their dedication, steadfastness and grit.
“I’m continually amazed at how rewarding pro bono work is for both the attorney and the client. It is an honor to fight for our clients and to let them see that they’re worthy of the same commitment and resources that are too often reserved exclusively to the wealthy and powerful in our society. When your client succeeds, it can reaffirm a belief that the fight to build a more just society is advancing, against all odds. The most surprising thing I learned about the immigration system is how much of it seems to be contingent, to turn on technicalities, to be up to the discretion of individual officers, agents or judges. It really drives home the fact that legal representation is truly outcome determinative, and that the system doesn’t work for most people without it.” -Laura Hildago
“As a corporate attorney, I find the work I do for KIND to be challenging and ultimately, very rewarding. It is extremely gratifying to know that I have helped make a difference in my clients’ lives. The great results that our team has achieved would not have been possible without the substantial guidance and support of KIND’s attorneys. For me, the biggest challenge was convincing the New Jersey Superior Court that two of our clients qualified for SIJS. After three hearings and multiple submissions, we finally convinced a skeptical judge to find that our clients had been abandoned and thereby secured the predicate order required for SIJS status.” – Jonathan Beck
Michael S. Chang, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP
In June 2018, Michael joined a team of attorneys from his firm representing a young man from Guatemala with approved SIJS status. Michael has quickly become an integral member of the legal team, guiding his client through the complex process of adjustment of status. A life sciences transactions attorney, Michael enthusiastically undertook the lead role in the matter, eager to successfully represent his client in immigration court and before USCIS. Michael has proactively identified potential issues with his client’s case and has meticulously worked to address them, which will enable his client to successfully adjust status in the months ahead. Michael is a compassionate and dedicated advocate for his client.
“I’ve continued to be surprised by the complexities in navigating the U.S. immigration system—and that’s just through the limited experience of the one tiny slice of the system that our team has encountered in assisting our client during this matter! If anything, it highlights to me the immeasurable importance of KIND’s mission and pro bono endeavors—so thank you again to KIND for all it does to support children in need.”
Thomas Meagher and Ines Zamouri, Meagher Emanuel Laks Goldberg & Liao, LLP
Tom and Ines began representing a young woman from Nigeria in May 2019. Moving with incredible speed, the team successfully obtained a family court order within four months of taking on representation. They swiftly filed simultaneous applications for SIJS and adjustment of status with USCIS, and notwithstanding delays caused by COVID-19, their client obtained her green card in less than a year and half from the start of their representation. The efficiency and tenacity of this dynamic team was also proven through their representation of a young Honduran boy before the Asylum Office. Despite increased difficulty in obtaining asylum in gang and family-based claims, Tom and Ines skillfully obtained asylum for their young client within only a few months of their first meeting. Their commitment to exceptional representation combined with their personal connection to their clients makes them deserving of particular recognition.
“Just a few days before our asylum interview, the Administration changed the procedures for unaccompanied children seeking asylum. When the Asylum Officer cut our client’s interview short based on those new procedures, I advocated for a delay while litigation challenging the procedures could proceed. The asylum office never denied the asylum application and after the procedures were enjoined, asylum was granted to our client. Persistence pays off.” – Tom Meagher
“Throughout this process, it’s become clear to me how crucial legal representation is to those who are going through the U.S. immigration system. It is hard enough to navigate the system as an attorney—but to expect children to go through this on their own is beyond irrational. The amount of unrepresented individuals I have come across at court is astonishing, and it is distressing to think of how much this will affect their chances of getting a successful outcome. There is obviously a huge need for pro bono lawyers, now more than ever. On a personal level, it’s been the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had. I’ve become really attached to my clients, and I hope we’ll stay in touch for a long time. Professionally, it’s also been such an interesting exercise. Typically, your KIND clients will need representation at the immigration court, the family court, and the asylum office. As someone who’s been in the U.S. for only two years, it was quite incredible to be able to experience the judicial system in this way. I also get to practice my Spanish which is always a bonus!” -Ines Zamouri
Ariel Kapoano, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP
Since 2016, Ariel has offered legal representation to four immigrant children in New Jersey seeking immigration relief in the United States. A strategic thinker and talented litigator, Ariel has navigated extremely complex factual patterns and legal challenges with persistence and the heart of a true advocate. One of the things that make her an outstanding pro bono attorney is that she is undaunted by the unexpected twists in her clients’ stories and moves forward leaving no stone unturned in her commitment to secure their legal goals. She is not only a dedicated legal representative but also is keenly aware of her clients’ needs and does not shy away from advocating for resources to help them navigate the social and educational challenges they often face. For her tenacity in the face of long odds and her continued commitment to help unaccompanied children, we are grateful for Ariel.
“Through KIND, I help my young clients navigate a challenging immigration system so that they can safely reside with family members who love and care for them. I am so grateful to KIND for facilitating these connections and helping keep families together. As a lawyer and a mom, I can think of no greater or more rewarding work than to help these children to remain in their family’s care here in the United States where they can grow and thrive.”
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