Among Greenberg Traurig LLP's newest clients is an 11-year-old Ecuadorean boy who recently made a three-month journey to the U.S. in hopes of reuniting with his mother in California.
Stopped last October by U.S. immigration officials at the Texas border, the child entered a complex bureaucracy and legal system that does not provide legal counsel for people in immigration proceedings, even unaccompanied children who don't speak English or who show signs of abuse or trauma.
With U.S. federal and state officials struggling to respond to a recent surge of children making dangerous border crossings without a parent or guardian, most of them coming from Central America, Greenberg Traurig's pro bono practice saw an opportunity to step in and help children navigate the immigration system.
"As a former federal prosecutor, I am absolutely amazed that unaccompanied children are not appointed counsel," said Greenberg Traurig litigation partner Bill Silverman, head of the firm's pro bono practice.
"In a situation where you have a child who is 11 years old ... trying to make sense of meeting his mom again after many years, and making sense of the idea that he also might be sent back, there needs to be an aspect of the training that is about communicating with a young child," said partner Caroline Heller, the firm's New York pro bono coordinator.
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