By Michael Lukens
Kaley, age 13, was living with her grandmother in El Salvador when local gangs began to target her and her family. Her grandmother owns a local diner where neighborhood police officers and prosecutors often ate; as a result, gang members decided that she was pro-government and anti-gang. Gang members assaulted Kaley’s grandmother and targeted Kaley, threatening to kidnap and assault her. Kaley fled the country.
At the request of CAIR Coalition, a Fannie Mae team of Juliet Hanna, Marcus Meeks, and Celia Asinor dove in on Kaley’s behalf. They now represent her and are helping her apply for asylum; they have served as both advocates and friends, representing Kaley with comfort and compassion.
Immigrants facing deportation are more likely to win their cases if they have counsel. But lawyers can do more than affect the ultimate result. The deportation system is terrifying and designed to be coldly efficient; it is far less scary when a seasoned lawyer helps the client navigate the system. And the problems with the system—and the benefits of representation—are especially clear for immigrant children.
If Kaley is deported, she’ll face violence and threats alone. Juliet, Marcus, and Celia are fighting to prevent this. They epitomize a great pro bono team.
Michael Lukens is the Pro Bono Director at CAIR Coalition.