Since 2015, attorneys in Milbank’s Los Angeles office have represented more than 75 children who have come to the US border by themselves – meaning without a parent or guardian – asking to be able to stay and create new lives in America.
Some of the kids are running from familial abandonment, abuse and neglect. Others are escaping persecution due to some aspect of their life – race, religion, national origin, political opinion or association with a social group. Milbank represents these children on their journeys, helping them obtain some form of legal status that allows them to remain, live and eventually work in the United States. We also help with the basics, like enrolling in school and getting essential medical care.
The firm represents every child in immigration court, sometimes filing a case in the state court system to get predicate findings necessary to apply for legal status in the federal system. When appropriate, the team prepares and pursues asylum applications with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and in some instances, asks for asylum in immigration court and represent the children in a short trial.
“The process is often arduous and almost always long – four to five years – given the backlog in the US immigration system,” said senior consulting partner Linda Dakin-Grimm. “In every single case, our lawyers’ guidance has been absolutely vital in changing the trajectory of these kids’ lives and expanding their possibilities.”
The cases are referred to Milbank from a number of agencies, including Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Public Counsel, Bet Tzedek, Immigrant Defenders Law Center and others. Our child clients are often eligible to apply for asylum or Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS).
The Unaccompanied Child Migrant Project is led by Ms. Dakin-Grimm, who has championed a wide range of the firm’s pro bono immigration work. Through the years, the team has included Allan Marks, Mark Shinderman, Lauren Drake, Deborah Conrad, Tim Wendling, David Isenberg, Michael Dayen, Chris Bloom, Miguel Duran, Tom Quirxtner, Ayana Sumiyasu, Kristin Kido, Mohammad Tehrani, Chloe Jasper, Eunice Kang, Andrew Park, Ben Nicholson, Frankie Allegra, Marina Markarian, Asena Baran, Lya Ferreyra, Natalie Chitayat, Roy Jackson, Chris Lynch, Sam Payne, Jesus Diego and numerous legal assistants, secretaries, and office services and records professionals. In addition, every summer associate class for the past several years has worked on these cases, even during the COVID pandemic, and most incoming litigation associates also have assisted, as have associates from other practice areas across the firm.