Imagine finding yourself in a courtroom in a country where you do not speak the language or understand the customs. Faced with testifying under oath, filing documents, and arguing against experienced government lawyers, you have only a translator to assist you. Now imagine in this scenario that you are 12 years old, and the outcome of the proceeding means the difference between reuniting with your mother or returning to a village where your life or bodily autonomy are threatened.
For many children, this is not a hypothetical situation.
Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) is a nonprofit organization working to connect these children with lawyers who can help them navigate the daunting immigration process.
One such client was Ana Suruy, a 13-year-old girl from Guatemala. Her family arranged to have her sent north when a local drug cartel began focusing on the girl and saying that the family’s extortion payments were not enough. After a harrowing journey with a smuggler—who ultimately abandoned her in the desert without food or water—Ana made her way on foot to the United States, where she was picked up and detained at the U.S. border. Ana was ultimately granted asylum, thanks to the work of a KIND volunteer lawyer in a series of immigration proceedings.
KIND (supportkind.org) coordinates volunteer lawyers to step in and help sometimes already traumatized children navigate Immigration Court proceedings. The Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division is partnering with KIND to provide training and tools for its members who are interested in pro bono representation of unaccompanied alien minors. This partnership gives Division members the opportunity to help these children, who so desperately need assistance, and it also provides members an opportunity to develop skills in Immigration Court.