Over the past 18 months, a number of us at Microsoft have been working with Kids in Need of Defense, a pro bono organization dedicated to providing legal representation to the roughly 8,000 unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children in the U.S. who face deportation proceedings alone each year. It has been gratifying and exciting to see the progress KIND is making.
Microsoft partnered with U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie and 25 law firms to launch KIND in October 2008, and the organization began training pro bono attorneys and representing kids in several cities a little over a year ago.
By any measure, KIND’s progress to date has been impressive. By the end of 2009, KIND had identified and begun to assist almost 1,000 children with their immigration cases. KIND is operational in seven cities – Los Angeles, Houston, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, New York, Boston and Newark – and KIND staff have trained more than 1,000 attorneys to tackle children’s cases. More than 60 law firms and corporate law departments have come forward to assist KIND and we continue to welcome new partners.
KIND is making a huge difference on the lives of each individual the pro bono attorneys represent. Whether it is a three-year-old girl from Central America separated from her family while crossing into the U.S., or a teenage refugee from North Korea escaping deprivation in his home country, each case is heartbreaking and legal representation often makes a critical difference in the course of each child’s future.
KIND is also applying its immigration expertise on a broader level. KIND Executive Director Wendy Young and her staff are advocating for changes to U.S. immigration law and practices to ensure humane treatment and protection of children. KIND is also launching innovative pilot projects to ensure that children who are deported from the U.S. are able to resume their lives in safety and dignity in their home countries. For instance, KIND is working with the government of Guatemala to put social services in place for children returned to that country so they will not have to re-start their lives alone and unassisted.
Given the rich diversity of our employees at Microsoft, the global reach of our products and our strong commitment to pro bono legal work, supporting KIND is truly a labor of love for me and my colleagues. I want to thank the KIND staff and the many volunteers who have helped the organization get this far, and I encourage any individuals, law firms or corporate law departments interested in getting involved to visit the KIND Web site or drop an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.