WASHINGTON, D.C. — Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and HIAS today announced a new joint project to provide representation to forcibly separated immigrant and refugee families who have come to the United States seeking safety. The project will leverage the resources and skills of each organization to ensure that reunified asylum-seeking families have the free, high-quality pro bono legal assistance they desperately need.
Between 3,000 – 4,000 children were forcibly taken from their parents as a result of the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy against those seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border last summer. While the policy has ended, these families are still suffering greatly and many of their cases are ongoing. In addition, family separation continues, though at a far reduced rate as compared to when the policy was in effect. The need for legal representation is clear; without a lawyer, only one in 10 immigrants gains protection.
The project will use a pro bono attorney model and each organization will continue to use its respective expertise to mentor attorneys to represent forcibly separated and unaccompanied children and adults. The immigration process for children differs from that for adults; each requires attorneys to have specialized training and knowledge. KIND will use its expertise to mentor volunteer attorneys in how to proceed with cases of forcibly separated and unaccompanied children; HIAS will use its technical capacity and national network of affiliate agencies to provide mentorship to lawyers representing adults in family separation cases.
“KIND is thrilled to join with HIAS in using our respective expertise to help forcibly separated families receive the representation they need and deserve,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “Their cases are complex and we hope that through our work together, these families will have a fair chance to gain U.S. protection.”
“This partnership is exciting because it creates the opportunity to provide more support to more pro bono attorneys who are on the ground doing the work,” said Mark Hetfield, HIAS CEO and President. “Both of our organizations will provide high quality legal assistance to asylum seekers and others seeking humanitarian relief not just at the border but across the country.”
This collaboration will help families like Jane* and her two young children. Jane fled to the U.S. from Honduras with her children after suffering years of physical and emotional abuse by her husband. She had no protection from his violence, including incidents when he nearly killed her. When Jane and her children arrived in the U.S., they were forcibly separated without explanation. The children were also separated from each other and sent to different parts of the country. Jane did not know where her children were for over two months and whether she was going to see them again. The family has since reunited and is embarking on a difficult journey as they navigate a complex immigration legal system. Jane and her children are in different legal proceedings and will require different legal strategies to gain protection.
KIND and HIAS plan ongoing mentorship and trainings for the attorneys, as well as access to legal resources and materials. KIND and HIAS will also provide ongoing legal strategy assistance and prepare attorneys for client meetings, client interviews with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and hearings in immigration court.
*Name changed to protect identity