By Andrea Mangones
Representing unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children is challenging. Their cases are incredibly complex and tough to fight. Children’s limited understanding of the U.S. court system, general fear, and family separation all contribute to the difficulty of the representation. Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) seeks to match these children with high quality, child-friendly pro bono representation to meet this growing need. Brad Lennie, a partner at Pepper Hamilton, LLP, embodies the patience, flexibility, and compassion necessary to successfully advocate in these cases.
Brad recently won asylum for three siblings who were being targeted by gangs because of their family ties. Brad’s effective advocacy helped the siblings win asylum at the earliest possible stage, saving them years of waiting and the stress of a full immigration court trial. Because of Brad’s work, these children (now aged 18, 15, and 13) can remain in the United States indefinitely. Overcoming the family’s reservations, Brad handled the entire process with diligence and compassion, pursuing the case tirelessly in the face of multiple challenges.
Brad not only handled the intricate legal work, but equally as important, built rapport with the children and their family. When he received news of their asylum approval, he immediately sent a joyful email to his clients’ mother in Spanish conveying the great news.
The U.S. immigration system is complicated and children cannot navigate it alone. While reviewing forms to submit to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Brad stated, “I am a partner at a law firm, and have been practicing law for years. I am one of the most qualified people to complete these forms, and I am still baffled by this. How can they expect people to do this on their own?” The assistance of a pro bono lawyer can mitigate the fear and confusion KIND clients experience during their immigration journey.
Pro bono attorneys like Brad willingly take on difficult cases because they appreciate what a big difference they can make in their client’s lives. KIND is privileged to honor him during DC’s Pro Bono Week, and hopes that his story will inspire others to take on similarly rewarding and crucial pro bono representation for vulnerable clients.
Andrea Mangones is a Managing Attorney at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND).