for their initiative to provide legal services to unaccompanied migrant and refugee children
In response to the growing number of unaccompanied migrant and refugee children in need of legal representation in the United States, the legal department of Amazon and Davis Wright Tremaine partnered with Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and Bet Tzedek to represent unaccompanied migrant children seeking to remain in the U.S. due to dangerous conditions in their home countries. This initiative, made up of 75 Amazon attorneys and legal staff and 52 attorneys from Davis Wright Tremaine, represents more than 28 immigrant children from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras in hopes of obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) or asylum to allow them to remain in the United States.
Amazon and Davis Wright Tremaine began this pro bono partnership in July 2017 after Ajay Patel, associate general counsel at Amazon Studios in Los Angeles, reached out to KIND and Bet Tzedek about the possibility of a joint venture to provide pro bono legal services to unaccompanied migrant and refugee children with Davis Wright Tremaine. As this partnership was developed, 134 professionals from Amazon and Davis Wright Tremaine joined the project, with volunteers working from offices in Arlington, VA; California (Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sunnyvale); New York; Newark, NJ; Seattle, WA; and Washington, D.C. Project volunteers span across a variety of careers, including associate general counsel, corporate counsel, partners, associates, paralegals, legal assistants, and contract managers, as well as lawyers and non-lawyers from Amazon’s legal department and various subsidiaries including Amazon Studios, Audible, Twitch TV, and Lab126.
After an October 2017 nationwide KIND broadcast to project volunteers in participating cities, staff from KIND and Bet Tzedek conducted comprehensive trainings for participants at six different Amazon locations across the U.S. The partnership’s teams of Amazon and Davis Wright Tremaine attorneys launched their cases by meeting with their child clients in multi-city kick-off events in December of 2017.
So far, the partnership has successfully obtained SIJS status for 19 of the children and is close to obtaining SIJS status, asylum, or human trafficking visas for several more. With the number of unaccompanied migrant children to the U.S. rapidly increasing in modern times, the availability of pro bono legal services to assist these vulnerable populations is crucial. Against the backdrop of continually-changing immigration protocols and restrictions in the United States, Amazon’s partnership with KIND, Davis Wright Tremaine, and Bet Tzedek remains an exemplary model for other organizations to respond to the rapidly emerging needs of unaccompanied migrant children.
About the CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award
Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO), a project of Pro Bono Institute, created the CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award to recognize innovative pro bono collaborations of in-house legal departments with law firms and public interest organizations. Pro bono partnerships that include at least one in-house legal department with one or more law firms and/or public interest organizations are eligible. The CPBO Advisory Board selects the award recipients.
The award honors legal departments and the organizations with which they partner in the provision of legal services to those in need. The award recipients are departments, law firms, and public interest organizations that have demonstrated an impact in their community through their partnership project, shown substantial involvement in the project by in-house lawyers, made tangible steps toward sustaining the relationship among the partners, developed innovative substantive or structural approaches in support of the partnership’s effort, and addressed a critical legal need or assisted a particularly vulnerable community or target population.
Over the years, the impact and innovation of the projects supported by the award recipients have been tremendously important both in the projects’ ability to address the legal needs of the communities being served and in the role the partnerships have played in supporting and furthering pro bono work, especially within the in-house community. Through these partnerships, legal departments, law firms, and public interest organizations have devised programs that contribute to the legal profession’s efforts to close the justice gap and that create strong legacies of effective pro bono service.