Help us protect children

gives Scott McLester, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Wyndham Worldwide, KIND’s Innovation Award at the 2013 Gala at Jazz at the Lincoln Center in New York City on April 30.

The NASDAQ Stock Market dedicated yesterday’s market close to Kids In Need of Defense.

Founded by Microsoft and Angelina Jolie in 2008, KIND’s mission is simple – ensuring due process and legal representation for unaccompanied children in immigration proceedings in the United States. The opportunity to ring the Closing Bell provided a moment in time to highlight the urgent need for more pro bono attorneys.

Every year, thousands of lone children arrive in the United States, seeking safety and stability. They have fled their homes, countries and persecution, as well as severe abuse, abandonment, violent conflict, desperate poverty, forced marriage and female genital mutilation, among other hardships.

Many are teenagers. Some are as young as two years old. Many have suffered in ways that no child should ever have to.

In order to stay here legally, these children must navigate a complicated immigration system. They are required to appear in a courtroom before an immigration judge who will decide their fate. Shockingly often, they are alone and without legal representation.

When represented by counsel, children are three times more likely to be granted protection. In some cases, that protection literally saves the child’s life.

Through KIND, we have partnered with more than 160 law firms, corporations and law schools to identify volunteers to represent close to 5,000 vulnerable children. There are now more than 5,000 volunteer lawyers who have worked with KIND.

We celebrated KIND’s outstanding partners last night at a Gala Benefit Dinner. American Express and Whydham Worldwide received special awards, as did Holland & Knight LLP, Lowenstein Sandler LLP, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. I extend my thanks and appreciation for these exceptional partners.

But the need for further pro bono support is greater than ever, as the number of children arriving in the U.S. continues to climb: there could be as many as 26,000 this year. While we support the bipartisan immigration bill currently in front of the Senate, we cannot wait for legislation, and need to ensure this gap in immigrant child representation is filled. We urgently need the support of the corporate and legal communities to continue our progress and to meet these challenges. Please visit supportKIND.org to find out how you can help a child in need.

About the Author

General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft

Brad Smith is Microsoft's General Counsel and Executive Vice President of Legal and Corporate Affairs. He leads the company's Department of Legal and Corporate Affairs (LCA), which has approximately 1,100 employees located in 55 countries. Mr. Smith is responsible for the company's legal work, its intellectual property portfolio and patent licensing business as well as its government affairs and philanthropic work. He also serves as Microsoft's corporate secretary and its chief compliance officer. Mr. Smith currently co-chairs the board of directors of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and is the chair-elect of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity. In Washington state, Mr. Smith has served as chair of the Washington Roundtable, a leading Washington state-based business organization, and he has advanced several statewide education initiatives.