In July 2017, Ajay Patel, associate general counsel at Amazon Studios in Los Angeles, contacted Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and Bet Tzedek about providing legal services to unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children on a large scale in partnership with DWT. Ajay and Amazon Studios corporate counsel Archana Lannin, together with DWT’s Julie Orr, Jonathan Segal, and Jill Cohen, organized planning calls with KIND and Bet Tzedek to create an innovative, multicity pro bono project with substantial impact. KIND proposed a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) project, where case teams of Amazon and DWT attorneys would represent children on SIJS cases. The teams launched their cases with multicity kickoff events.
Both Amazon and DWT employees disseminated information about the project, recruiting 134 associate general counsel, corporate counsel, partners, associates, contract managers, paralegals, and legal assistants in Arlington, Va.; Los Angeles; New York; Newark, N.J.; San Francisco; Seattle; Sunnyvale, Calif.; and Washington, D.C. Lawyers and non-lawyers from across Amazon’s legal department, Amazon Studios, Audible, Twitch TV, and Lab126, signed up to help.
In October 2017, KIND broadcast a national webinar from Amazon Studios in Los Angeles to the participating cities. The next month, KIND and Bet Tzedek conducted in-depth trainings with the teams at six Amazon locations across the country. A month later, the teams met their clients for the first time to kick off their cases in a clinic-type setting. The kickoff events were held at DWT offices in the five cities and at Audible’s offices in Newark, N.J. The following year, the San Francisco office met with additional clients who had not been screened earlier.
The 26 teams include 52 DWT lawyers and 75 Amazon lawyers and staff. Over a year into the project, the teams are representing 28 unaccompanied migrant children who left their homes in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras to come to the United States to escape gangs and other dangerous conditions. These kids were picked up by immigration officials and placed into foster homes or with relatives or into government facilities. They hope to obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile Status which will allow them to stay in the United States. Some of them may also have claims for asylum.
So far, the teams have already obtained SIJS status for two of the children and are getting very close to obtaining that status for several more.