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You Can Help Protect Children

by Ronald S. Granberg

Billy (not his real name) was living in fear of the gangs that controlled his town in Honduras, and of their violence and terrifying threats. He had no one to protect him from the gangs—his parents had abandoned him and the police could not, or would not, act against the gangs. Billy fled to the United States to live with a sister in DeKalb County, Georgia, where he received the care and security he desperately needed.

The nationwide organization Kids in Need of Defense (“KIND”) provides pro bono deportation defense for Billy and other children like him.  KIND needs your help with cases like Billy’s.  “I couldn’t help,” you would reply.  “I practice before a state court and, of course, state courts have no connection with federal immigration cases.”

But you would be wrong.  Congress has vested state family law courts with authority to make certain statutory findings highly relevant to deportation cases involving children who, like Billy, entered the U.S. unaccompanied by a parent or guardian.  

In Billy’s case, KIND pro bono attorneys asked a DeKalb County probate court judge to issue a guardianship petition and findings that: (1) Billy was abused, neglected, and/or abandoned by his parents, and (2) it would be in Billy’s best interest to remain in the United States.  Unfortunately, the probate judge dismissed the petition.

Billy’s KIND attorneys filed a new petition before the DeKalb County Superior Court.  The attorneys sought guidance from AAML Fellow Tina Roddenbery from Holland Roddenbery LLC on how to navigate DeKalb County’s Superior Court.   Tina’s advice, along with the support of her associate Erik Chambers, gave the KIND pro bono attorneys the tools they needed to file a successful petition for third party custody and obtain the helpful findings.  Billy has been provided newfound stability.  AAML’s assistance was critical to reaching this successful outcome.

Tina chairs AAML’s recently-created Unaccompanied Immigrant Children’s Taskforce, which connects KIND with AAML Fellows willing to provide state court advice.  Please contact Tina (Tina@hollandroddenbery.com) or me (Ron@granberglaw.com) if you would be willing to assist KIND help children like Billy.

Ronald S. Granberg, Vice Chair
Unaccompanied Immigrant Children’s Taskforce

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