Washington, DC – 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 Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia 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 Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia and thank them for their service to unaccompanied children:
Siddhartha Narayan, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
At the end of 2019, Sid received an unexpected asylum office interview notice for his client’s asylum application and within just the span of about two months, Sid quickly finalized his client’s asylum affidavit, conducted country conditions research, wrote an asylum brief, and thoroughly prepared his client for the interview. In the middle of the pandemic, Sid received the good news that his client won asylum. In addition to handling asylum cases, Sid also handles Special Immigrant Juvenile cases for other clients through KIND.
“When I asked my client, who was recently granted asylum, what he wanted to be when he grows up, he replied by saying that he wanted to help people in need just like I was able to help him. I am just happy that I could make a difference in another individual’s life and I hope that he can make a difference in someone else’s life.”
Harrison Kilgore, Akash Patel, Kevin Greenslade, and Jon Talotta, Hogan Lovells, LLP
The Hogan team had just filed their custody petition for their 17-year-old client when the relevant family court announced that the court would only be hearing cases filed earlier in the spring, which meant that their client would turn 18 before he would be able to appear in court. Thanks to their extraordinary advocacy efforts, the team was able to successfully obtain a predicate order after a virtual custody hearing before the client’s 18th birthday, allowing him to apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status with USCIS.
“Our client’s custody case presented unique challenges due to the COVID-related court shutdowns. We took extraordinary steps to ensure that the case was presented to the judge in the best possible light. And it paid off, as we had anticipated the judge’s concerns, addressed them all in advance, and cleared path to a favorable verdict.” – Jon Talotta
“The challenges a juvenile facing the U.S. immigration is confronted with are remarkably daunting even with the assistance of counsel and in the best of times. In the current environment, and particularly with the impacts of COVID on the legal system, the hill is that much harder to climb.” – Kevin Greenslade
“Working with these kids is one of my favorite things about being a lawyer. They have overcome profound hardship and still demonstrate so much resilience, passion, and optimism. Our immigration system does a million things wrong, but one thing it does right is allow for the opportunity for these children to have a safe and happy life here in America with their family. KIND’s amazing dedication makes it possible for lawyers to help as many kids in need as possible, and it will always be one of the most fulfilling parts of practicing immigration law for me.” – Akash Patel
Ellen Bass, Esq.
Ellen Bass was retired as a litigator and government counsel when she stepped up to represent two KIND clients in 2016. She has been working on their cases ever since as a sole practitioner. “I wanted to use my law license to address what I felt was a great need, given the anti-immigrant rhetoric I was reading about.” She says that KIND’s support has been critical. “It’s a steep learning curve, and I could not and would not have done it without my KIND mentor.” Nevertheless, it’s no small feat to do this work by herself. For example, she filed an asylum application over two years ago for one of her clients, who has special needs, and her continued advocacy over that period resulted in the Asylum Office finally scheduling an interview. Both of her clients are now eligible to adjust status, and she continues to work to allow them to do so. They are very grateful, and so are we.
Read more about Ellen here.
Caitlin Munley and Natalie Pike, Cooley LLP
Caitlin and Natalie started off 2020 by challenging the government and preserving their client’s due process rights. Then, as soon as they filed their custody petition with the family court for their 17-year-old client, their hearing was postponed until several months after their client’s 18th birthday. In just under three months, overcoming many obstacles with strategic agility and quick thinking, they were able to get an important order for the client through one of the first virtual hearings held in family court. This allowed their client to apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, and to prepare an asylum application for their client before his 18th birthday.
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