Representing Children in Immigration Proceedings
It's difficult to imagine clients more in need of legal representation than unaccompanied immigrant children. They are without family members or guardians to protect them, and they are unfamiliar with the law, the process, the language, and sometimes the importance of their immigration cases to their safety and security. Unfortunately, there is no court-appointed counsel in Immigration Court. A child in immigration proceedings may be eligible for relief as the victim of abuse, abandonment, neglect, persecution, trafficking, or crime. Some children are eligible to remain in the United States based on a relative's lawful status. All of the children have a significantly better chance for relief from removal when represented by counsel.
Children should not face immigration proceedings alone. Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) is a national nonprofit that finds pro bono legal representation for immigrant children. KIND recruits, trains, matches and mentors volunteer attorneys to represent unaccompanied minors in Immigration Court. According to KIND Executive Director, Wendy Young, "Thousands of unaccompanied children who come to the United States each year are unrepresented in their immigration proceedings; as a result many who are eligible and in need of U.S. protection are sent back to their home countries, where their well-being, or even their lives, may be in danger. The attorneys who volunteer with KIND are changing this equation."
Attorneys who volunteer with KIND meet with and interview the client, analyze eligibility for relief, prepare applications, appear in court, gather evidence, prepare witnesses, and more. Experts at KIND provide resources and technical assistance throughout the process. The volunteer's time and energy have a significant impact on the life of the child as well. Stacey Wang, a KIND pro bono attorney from Holland & Knight says, "As a child immigrant, I feel fortunate to have been spared the trauma that these kids are forced to endure through no fault of their own. Helping them navigate a system that they do not understand in a country where they trust no one is challenging, but extraordinarily rewarding."
The need for volunteer attorneys is particularly acute, with a recently reported rise in the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border. A law firm or an individual attorney interested in volunteering with KIND should visit http://www.supportkind.org/ for more information, or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
KIND has locations in Baltimore, Los Angeles, Newark, Texas, Boston, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, DC, New York City, and Seattle. In addition, there are other nonprofits seeking to match unaccompanied children with lawyers. See http://www.cliniclegal.org/lopc for a list of locations and contact information.
Resources on Representing Children
IAN's Pro Bono Resource Center offers several resources that describe the process for children who end up in immigration proceedings:
"Representing Unaccompanied Children in Immigration Proceedings," an IAN podcast with Wendy Young, Executive Director of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). Wendy discusses the work of KIND, the plight of unaccompanied children who migrate to the U.S., and the need for volunteer attorneys to represent children in immigration proceedings.
"Unaccompanied Children: The Journey from Home to Appearing before the Immigration Court in the United States," an IAN webinar featuring experts from the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. and KIND.
"The Flow of Unaccompanied Children through the Immigration System: A Resource for Practitioners, Policy Makers, and Researchers," a new report by the Vera Institute of Justice.
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