Meredith Stewart has been practicing immigration law for over twelve years and has been working on KIND cases since 2009. As a Partner at Pappas and Lenzo LLP in Boston, MA, Meredith has taken on six pro bono KIND clients over the years. Although Meredith has experience in immigration law, working on these pro bono cases allows her to add a human interest component to her work. “Until I came across KIND, I really hadn’t found something where I could use my professional skills to help people- I was always doing things through my community and church, but with KIND I could use my experience as an attorney to help children,” she said.
When Meredith was three years old, her family moved to Italy and lived there until she decided to return to the United States for college. After graduating from Smith College, she received her JD from the University of Miami School of Law. Meredith then spent a few years in Miami practicing immigration law and came to Boston in 2007 and specialized in Corporate Business Immigration.
Meredith’s first KIND case was with a young boy from Honduras named Manuel*. When Manuel was five years old, his mother left him in the care of his grandparents. Manuel never knew his father. His grandparents physically abused him. A teacher at Manuel’s school noticed the abuse and helped place him in a local orphanage. Manuel lived in the orphanage until he was 15 years old, and it wasn’t until he was assaulted on the streets of Honduras with a machete that Manuel decided it was time to try and find his mother in the U.S.
Manuel made the journey to the U.S. in 2009 and was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and released to his mother in Massachusetts. This is when Meredith came in and took his case pro bono.
“With kids I feel like they have so much in front of them,” she said. “If we could get them their green card and get them status there is so much hope and opportunity for them here.”
With Meredith’s help Manuel was able to obtain a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) and received his green card, enabling him to go to school and make his life in the U.S. without fear of being deported.
In another KIND case, Meredith represented two brothers from Haiti who were abandoned by their father in the U.S. Stephane* and Emmanuel* came to the U.S. in 2010 when they were only 15 and 13 years old. The boys came with their father following the earthquake in Haiti; their school, home, and neighborhood were completely destroyed. They had come to visit their sister who was in high school at the time in Massachusetts. However, to the children’s surprise, their father left the two boys in the sister’s care and returned to Haiti without them. Although this transition has been extremely hard on the three teenagers, Meredith was able to get the boys temporary protected status and eventually their green cards.
Stephane is now finishing high school and Meredith is helping him with his college applications and scholarships for next year.
Meredith continues to work with unaccompanied children and fight for their protection. “They are children. Getting to see them through the process and seeing the change they go through from a scared child in immigration court to this new-found confidence and even happiness is amazing.” KIND is extremely grateful for all the hard work and dedication that attorneys like Meredith put into each and every case—inside and outside the courtroom.
*Names and certain details changed to protect client’s identity