Carla Reyes

Class of '04

Place of service: Kids in Need of Defense

Why I Serve

Kids in Need of Defense is a Microsoft-sponsored, pro-bono attorney project (see www.supportkind.org). They pair volunteer attorneys with unaccompanied alien children in immigration proceedings (often detained by ICE for crossing the border without documents). In the United States, children who arrive in the United States alone and without a visa, and who are found and detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are detained in separate facilities from those that hold adult undocumented immigrants in removal proceedings. There are between eight and ten such facilities in Washington State.  Many children are released from those facilities to a distant relative, wherever they may live in the United States, because children have a right to go through Immigration Court proceedings with their family (a parent or guardian who can help them understand what is happening and hopefully help them defend whatever rights they have).  In Washington, my husband worked as a case manager at one of the juvenile detention facilities for UACs.

How I Serve

As a pro bono attorney with KIND, I represented UACs in their Immigration Court proceedings.  Many of these children had been abused, abandoned, neglected, or otherwise suffered persecution in their home countries. When that abuse was done by their parents, I helped the children seek Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, which, if granted, allowed them to become legal permanent residents, and eventually, citizens. If the abuse was at the hands of others, depending upon the reason for the abuse, I helped the children seek asylum. There are special procedures for UACs seeking asylum, and I helped them navigate the legal aspects of that. I took a lot of cases from KIND. A lot. As a result of my volunteer efforts in the space, I was also asked to join the Washington Governor’s Unaccompanied Minor Task Force, which was created to help coordinate efforts to serve UACs after the surge of unaccompanied child immigrants that recently occurred. I also mentored other volunteer attorneys in my law firm who were newer to the space, and other attorneys in my geographic area who were not in my law firm that were new to certain state court procedures in Snohomish and other outlying counties (I often volunteered for such cases, which were harder to place because they are farther away from downtown Seattle where we all worked).

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