Sarah Phelps

April 18, 2022

April Attorney of the Month

Sarah Phelps

KIND’s Washington D.C. Office is pleased to recognize Sarah Phelps as Pro Bono Attorney of the month for April 2022. Sarah took her first KIND case in 2016, working with a teenager from Honduras to secure an SIJS finding and ultimately permanent residence for her client last month! Sarah took on a second KIND case in 2017, a teenager from El Salvador. Sarah’s commitment to her client is evident in both of her cases. Sarah is a tireless advocate for her clients and jumped into action when USCIS announced that the March Visa Bulletin was retrogressing by two years. Although ultimately unsuccessful, Sarah working diligently and quickly to try to move the Arlington Immigration Court to advance her client’s individual hearing prior to the date of the retrogression and successfully gathered the additional necessary evidence in record time. Sarah approaches her representation of KIND clients with thoughtfulness, compassion, and creativity.
Here is what Sarah has to say about her experience:

When and why did you first take a KIND case?

I took my first KIND case in 2016 in response to the surge in unaccompanied minors arriving at our southern border and the overwhelming need for representation. I was motivated to do so in part because of what seemed to be an indifference from the Trump administration to the law and processes that serve vulnerable migrant children and others.

What have you learned from this experience or from your client?

I knew almost nothing about immigration law when I took my first case, and not enough about the dire conditions faced by children and families in northern triangle countries [Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras]. Once I began learning about the extreme need for pro bono attorneys to represent people seeking asylum or other forms of relief, I began to follow other aspects of the system – particularly the need for legal assistance at detention centers and migrant camps.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about the U.S. immigration system?

I knew that the system was backlogged and overburdened before I took my first KIND case, but I had no idea the myriad ways this translates into increased human suffering and the abuse of those charged with running the system at every level. The need for comprehensive reform is urgent.

What would you tell other attorneys to encourage them to take a KIND case?

To use your privilege as a member of the bar to help a child live in relative safety is an extremely rewarding experience. The KIND system of mentorship is excellent, and an experienced attorney will be there to assist you every step of the way.

Do you have any advice for a new attorney taking their first pro bono case?

As rewarding and vital as this work is, it cannot be described as providing instant gratification. It takes a while to achieve a result, but with patience and the help of your KIND mentor, you will be using your skills to help a child start a new life. Can’t think of anything better!