Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) Boston featured Sarah Smith in their Pro Bono Attorney Spotlight and published the below Q&A.
For this month’s Pro Bono Attorney Spotlight, we would like to recognize Sarah C. Smith, a partner at McCarter & English, LLP.
Sarah has had three KIND cases that she has handled since 2017. Throughout this time, she has remained a dedicated advocate for unaccompanied children. Her work and dedication to her clients is exemplary and all of her hard work has impacted the lives of those she has represented. Sarah has been a beacon to her clients, and the work she has done will forever impact her clients lives for the better.
Why did you take a KIND case?
My family benefited from the United States’ immigration system, including when my father obtained his green card and later when he became a U.S. citizen. When I learned about KIND’s mission, I knew that it was an opportunity to help a child navigate the extremely complex U.S. immigration system. In addition, it was a small way of paying forward the benefit that my family has received.
What have you learned from this experience or from your client?
I am very fortunate to be able to work at a law firm that supports and encourages every attorney to take pro bono cases. I have volunteered to work on three KIND cases, my first in 2017. With the support of KIND, I was able to help my client obtain SIJS and eventually his green card. It was an exciting, life-changing opportunity for my client and a proud moment in my legal career for me. It is a long process, but it helps a child start a new life away from violence and neglect.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about the U.S. immigration system?
I was surprised by how complicated the system is and how much the process has slowed down in recent years. Simply knowing where to start while facing a deportation order is a daunting process for anyone, but especially for children who find themselves in a country on their own and often without knowing how to speak English. Thankfully, KIND helps connect children with attorneys, but I often think about the countless number of children that are not as lucky.
What would you tell other attorneys to encourage them to take a KIND case?
I advise all lawyers to take a KIND case because it provides an opportunity to change a child’s life. As a new lawyer you can hone your legal skills right away by drafting motions and arguing in front of judges in state and immigration court. All of the hard work helps you learn new skills and confidence as a lawyer. In addition, I have enjoyed having an opportunity to practice speaking Spanish.
Do you have any advice for a new attorney taking their first pro bono case?
Utilize all of the support that KIND provides, including trainings and advice. You do not need any experience working on an immigration case to take a case. KIND provides forms, legal citations and precedent and guidance that you can use to build your case. There is no question that is too small for the KIND attorneys. They have a lot of expertise, and they are happy to share it with you.