Making a difference for a 14-year-old boy in NYC

by Alex Pender   on March 8, 2017

For the past year-and-a-half, a team of pro bono attorneys at JPMorgan Chase have been working with Ronald*, a 14-year-old boy from Honduras. Vice President and Assistant General Counsel Bonnie Tucker, and Vice President and Assistant General Counsel Kristen Murray, are leading the team; without them, Ronald would have no one to represent him in court.

 

“After gaining the trust and respect of their client, Bonnie and Kristen learned important facts about Ronald’s story and were able to present arguments in Family Court as to why their client should be issued a special findings order,” said KIND Pro Bono Coordinating Attorney Chelsea Sahai. “After success in Family Court, Bonnie and Kristen were able to secure Special Immigrant Juvenile Status for their client, and protection in the U.S.”

 

KIND asked Bonnie and Kristen about their dedication to working on these children’s cases and their partnership with
KIND:

 

Q&A

  • How did you become involved in working with KIND and what has inspired you the most in continuing to partner with KIND?

We are fortunate to work for a company that promotes pro bono service throughout the organization and is truly dedicated to improving the communities in which it serves. After participating in a legal department pro bono day of service, we were inspired to look for additional pro bono opportunities. We selected KIND because of its important work focused on helping and protecting children and the ability to use our litigation skills.

  • What was your biggest lesson-learned or personal growth moment during the process of working with unaccompanied children?

We were amazed at Ronald’s bravery in overcoming so many challenges at such a young age, including making the long and dangerous journey to reunite with his father. We realized that Ronald’s life was at a crossroads – either he would remain with his family in the United States and build a new life, or he would return to uncertainty and violence in his native country. It was gratifying to be able to use our legal skills to help Ronald and his family navigate this difficult process.

  • Can you share a bit about Ronald’s case: what it was like meeting him for the first time? Why did he have to come to the US? Was this your first time working with a child client? Would he have been able to do this on his own?

As a toddler, Ronald was abandoned by his mother and was left under the care of his paternal grandparents. While he enjoyed living with his grandparents, he was worried about their ability to continue to care for him due to their advancing age and declining health, as well as increased gang violence in his home town.

While Ronald was quiet during our first meeting and intimidated by the process, he soon began to relax and confide in us about his journey and fears. Despite the enormity of the situation, he was still just like any other kid—joking around with us, talking about school, girlfriends and soccer.

Given the complexity of the court systems, the multiple appearances required in both family court and immigration court, the numerous submissions to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the language barriers, it would have been challenging for Ronald and his father to navigate this process without legal assistance. Our litigation backgrounds and KIND’s support helped us to successfully navigate some of the challenges that arose throughout the representation.

  • What aspects of this pro bono work are different from the everyday work you do at JPMorgan Chase and what would you say to other attorneys considering taking a case from KIND?

While we greatly enjoy working with our business clients, the work we do with KIND provides a way to impact people’s daily lives and well-being in a wholly different manner – in the case of Ronald, enabling him to be with his family . We were with Ronald and his father when the family court granted the guardianship petition and issued the Special Immigration Juvenile Status order. It was wonderful to see the joy and relief they experienced knowing they would be able to build a new future together. This experience also gave us the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues with whom we don’t regularly get the opportunity to work.

  • Why is it important for attorneys to engage as advocates for pro bono issues such as vulnerable, unaccompanied children?

In addition to attorneys having a professional responsibility to provide pro bono legal services, it is personally fulfilling to utilize our legal skills to help someone navigate a difficult situation that would otherwise be very challenging. Something that may be fairly easy for us to handle could in fact be life-changing for a client. Additionally, from a professional standpoint, pro bono representations provide a great opportunity to sharpen and develop new legal skills.

 

*Child’s name and certain information have been changed to protect his identity.

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