San Francisco, 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 San Francisco 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 San Francisco and thank them for their service to unaccompanied children:
Donald Ristow, Covington & Burling LLP
Don took on representation of two young girls in the Central Valley. He took initiative throughout the case and carefully moved it forward by analyzing the potential options and outcomes. He is helping his clients through the complicated process of obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, protection for children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected.
“KIND presents its pro bono attorneys with the opportunity to help migrant children obtain legal status in the United States that they can carry with them the rest of their lives. It’s lasting, life-altering work that I wanted to support.”
Michele Thompson and Kathy Quon Bryant, Meyers Law Group P.C.
Michele and Kathy are superheroes who have taken on several KIND cases. They are compassionate, diligent, zealous, and communicative. They have worked on cases of children who have been released from custody, those in which the child is applying affirmatively, and cases in which the children are in long-term foster care.
“One thing that I have learned from each of our KIND clients is that they do not let the trauma that they have suffered in their home countries define who they are today as young people. They are incredibly resilient, and optimistic, despite the numerous challenges they face – being in removal proceedings, learning a new language and culture, adapting to a new living situation, a new school, etc. Watching them overcome these challenges has inspired me and shaped me into a bolder and braver advocate.” – Kathy
“Immigration rights and representation have long been an area of U.S. law with some massive inequities, and pro bono representation of clients with fewer resources could help balance those inequities.” – Michele
Patricia Thayer, Gilead Sciences
Patricia has partnered with an incredible team at Gilead and Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP on several cases, all Special Immigrant Juvenile Status cases, for children who were abused, abandoned, or neglected. She really went above and beyond recently to advocate for work authorization for her client who was about to lose her job.
“It is incredible how these kids come to the U.S. and can’t speak English and yet throw themselves into schoolwork and making a new life with a new family. It is never too late to make a change. They inspire me to find more ways to contribute to my community and promote social justice.”
Florencia Cudos, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP
Florencia provides all paralegal support on the firm’s three KIND cases, including communication with the clients. She recently worked on a very challenging age-out state court case and handled the notice requirements seamlessly. She facilitated getting signatures from home country and from four half-siblings in a very short time period. Florencia works efficiently and provides a substantial amount of support and counsel to their clients.
“Our KIND clients are resilient; they have endured hardship in their home countries, shown great strength by crossing the border without their family, and are seeking better opportunities in the United States. They are eager to tell their story, even though the memories can be painful and many times it is too difficult to share all the details of what they went through.”
Francine Lopacinski, Fish & Richardson P.C.
Francine communicates well with clients, prepares all of the forms, collects all documents, and advises them on the process under the supervision of the attorney on the case. Francine has worked with KIND since the office opened in San Francisco in 2016.
“Even with all my experience in the legal field—36 years—I couldn’t believe how challenging it could be to navigate through and understand the various immigration agency rules and requirements. And how difficult and frustrating it must be for those who have no legal background. What helps me to overcome that challenge is knowing that our clients are good people and are doing everything they can to legally be in our country, and I want to help them however I can.”
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