Friends, I would like to share with you that I have been recognized as a 2020 Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year by the Los Angeles office of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND).the leading national organization advocating for the rights of unaccompanied migrant and refugee children in the United States.
He represented several immigrant children who arrive alone, sometimes fleeing violence, and who are unprotected, over the past 10 years. Advocating for these children has been important to me and it is a real honor to be recognized by KIND for my efforts to help them obtain the special immigrant juvenile status and permanent residency in the United States.
As a self-employed lawyer, it is not easy to devote so much time to charity work, but I have done my best to help as much as I can. The work has been difficult, but rewarding, because I have seen every child or young person I have helped overcome challenges and thrive.
Fortunately, thanks to sympathetic and fair judges and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, I was able to get the cases of all the immigrant children I have represented approved, giving them a chance at a better life.
I understand very well the challenges of a new life, in a new country, for these children, because it is something I experienced myself. I came to this country, from El Salvador, when I was 11 years old. As an immigrant child, I faced many difficulties during my first years in this great country. That is why helping vulnerable children and adolescents navigate the U.S. legal immigration system is a personal and important cause for me.
Over the past 10 years, I have created meaningful connections and kept in touch with the young people I have represented, even after their cases have been resolved and they obtained permanent residency.
I am very proud to share that one of those children I represented, now a young man, is a U.S. citizen.He has become an aviation mechanic and is currently looking to buy his first home. It gives me great satisfaction to see him excel and achieve his dreams. That is my goal for every child and person I represent, because I feel that with my work I help to change their lives in a positive way.
Below is a Google Translate translation of the KIND press release announcing my recognition:
KIND honors L.A. volunteers who help refugee and immigrant children
October 26, 2020
Los Angeles, CA - As it prepares to commemorate the twelfth annual National Pro Bono Celebration at the end of October, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) announced today that it is honoring outstanding pro bono attorneys in Los Angeles who provide vital legal services. services to refugee and immigrant children who come to the United States alone in search of safety. These attorneys, who serve as the heart of KIND's mission, are volunteers who go above and beyond to help these children advocate for America's protection.
The children who come to KIND are among the most vulnerable in our society. Many have fled life-threatening violence, including gang violence and narco-violence in their home countries in Central America, and come to the United States hoping to find safety. They are not provided an attorney in their deportation proceedings; without an attorney, it is nearly impossible for them to navigate the U.S. immigration system.
"I could not be more pleased to honor our volunteers who truly live KIND's mission: to protect unaccompanied children on their journey to safety," said KIND President Wendy Young. "KIND volunteers are the lifeline for these children, providing legal assistance, interpretation and other crucial support, in addition to simply being a trusted and caring adult in the child's life. These children have been through a lot in their young lives, many fleeing violence and other dangers, and KIND volunteers accompany them to help them access the protection they so desperately need and deserve."
Last year, KIND received over 175,000 hours and $ 103 million in pro bono legal services, bringing its total pro bono services to over 880,000 hours and $ 475 million in pro bono services since 2009. KIND's pro bono legal volunteers do not need immigration experience. The organization provides expert training and mentoring for the duration of the cases. Attorneys who volunteer with KIND work directly with our minor clients and gain valuable courtroom experience, among other skills. Nearly all say that the most valuable part of their experience was getting to know the child clients and helping to change the trajectory of the child's life.
KIND is pleased to honor our 2020 volunteers in Los Angeles and thank them for their service to unaccompanied children:
Joseph Lee and Adam Lawton, Munger Tolles & Olson LLP
Joseph and Adam are strong supporters of KIND and the children we serve in Southern California. Since 2009, they have put their talents in litigation to help children in need by taking dozens of cases, including complex matters. It has been a privilege to work with Joseph and Adam to defend the rights of unaccompanied children.
"When I hear what my clients have gone through, the terrible things they have suffered, I know I have to do everything I can to help them. It's my mission and my duty, they deserve no less." - Joseph Lee
"Helping some of the most vulnerable people in society navigate our complex immigration system is one of the most important ways we can make a positive change in their lives." - Adam Lawton
Milagros Villalobos and Sara Ciccolari-Micaldi, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP
Milagros and Sara are dedicated attorneys who are very thoughtful in their approach to their KIND cases. Their diligence ensures that their clients receive the best possible outcome.
"One of the most surprising things we have learned about the U.S. immigration system is how incredibly complex it can be, which makes KIND'S work particularly necessary. Legal representation for crucial moments, such as court hearings and USCIS applications, is crucial, and we are fortunate to work alongside KIND to provide such representation." -Milagros Villalobos and Sara Ciccolari-Micaldi
Jody Zucker, Warner Bros. Television Group.
Jody is a leading pro bono attorney in KIND's Los Angeles office for four years. He is dedicated to his clients and making sure their voice is heard.
"My first client of 2016, a 12-year-old boy from El Salvador, finally received the necessary approvals; we were recently able to complete his deportation proceedings and he is now eligible to apply for a change of status. With the help of my colleagues, we have four more clients at various stages of the long road to documentation. It has been the most significant work I have done in my 35-year career and the support of KIND and its attorney mentors has made it possible.
Nelson Castillo, Esq.
Over the past ten years, Nelson has helped several KIND clients obtain special immigrant juvenile status and, ultimately, permanent residency.
"As an attorney working independently, doing pro bono work helping KIND defend, protect and empower immigrant children has been rewarding as I have seen them overcome challenges and thrive. We have been fortunate and grateful to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for approving our clients' cases, giving them the opportunity for a better life. As a child immigrant, who struggled during my early years in this great country, helping vulnerable children and teens navigate the U.S. legal immigration system is a personal and important cause to me. In return, over the past 10 years, I have created meaningful connections and stayed in touch with our clients, even after their cases have been resolved. For example, one of the children I represented, now a young man, is a U.S. citizen, has become an aircraft mechanic, and is currently looking to buy his first home. Seeing him achieve his American dream has been gratifying.
Jeanette Garza and Jose Geronimo, Munger Tolles & Olson, LLP
Jeannette and Geronimo work incredibly hard on the cases the firm has taken on over the years. Jeanette and Geronimo are committed to children's clients and are instrumental in helping cases move forward.
"Thank you so much for this award which symbolizes a part of my life that gives me great satisfaction, that of helping young people live better lives and helping them get better opportunities in this country. Over the years, I have received many blessings and hugs expressing the positive impact a paper has on the future of our clients and it has always motivated me to help more clients succeed in getting that valuable paper, a legal status. to live here in the United States." - Jose Geronimo
"Our pro bono clients have faced tremendous persecution and oppression. I am grateful for the opportunity to help transform the lives of people who have been so unfortunate. Without a doubt, the greatest reward is when a client is placed on the path to citizenship." - Jeanette Garza
KIND's presented its 2020 national awards to DLA PIPER, JONES DAY AND JP MORGAN CHASE. As KIND's dedicated pro bono partners, these honorees have in a variety of ways demonstrated their extraordinary commitment to ensuring that unaccompanied children have a fair opportunity to present their case and are not returned to the same danger from which they fled.
Media contact: Megan McKenna, MMCKENNA@SUPPORTKIND.ORG , 202-631-9990