Keker & Van Nest LLP has granted $60K to organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area working to assist unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in the United States. Over the past year, more than 60,000 minor children have fled Central America in the face of unimaginable violence, seeking refuge in this country. Often these children have traveled to the United States, and crossed numerous international borders, on their own, without any parent or adult guardian. More than 2,000 of these children are in the Bay Area, most of them facing accelerated deportation proceedings without the help of a lawyer. Local non-profit agencies are doing their best to respond to this crisis and provide the children with representation, but the large number of children, in combination with the speed with which the immigration courts are handling these cases, has exhausted their resources. As a result, many children who have valid asylum claims to stay in this country are under imminent threat of being wrongly deported back to countries where their lives are in danger.
Keker & Van Nest is hoping that its grants will provide significant and immediate relief to as many of these refugee children as possible. The $60,000 in grant money will be evenly split between the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) which coordinates and prepares cases for litigation, and the Centro Legal de la Raza, which provides direct representation to children seeking asylum or other relief.
“We are thrilled to help these two great organizations. Both have a long track record of success and are deeply committed to serving unaccompanied minor immigrants, but the services they provide are distinct. Centro Legal provides direct representation of children, while CGRS provides the mentoring, legal expertise, and written research needed to prepare the cases for lawyers,” said Keker & Van Nest Partner Dan Purcell, who is coordinating the firm’s response. “This money is a good start, but much more help is needed to ensure every child facing deportation has a lawyer. We would love to see other Bay Area law firms match or even exceed our contributions. We can all do more to address this humanitarian crisis.”
In addition to the grants, Keker & Van Nest is continuing to provide administrative support and office space to attorneys from outside the firm who are representing refugee children in immigration proceedings, as well providing pro bono representation to its own clients in asylum and immigration proceedings. The firm was inspired to respond to the humanitarian crisis by the California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris. She recently convened private law firms, philanthropic representatives, legal service providers, and immigration advocates to ensure that children crossing our borders alone have adequate legal representation and access to due process. This effort is focused on securing resources to close the legal services gap by connecting California’s private bar with direct legal service providers, and other organizations able to provide immediate relief and resource support.
About Keker & Van Nest
Based in San Francisco, the firm's 80 trial and litigation attorneys devote their practice to complex civil and criminal matters. Their expertise encompass a wide range of substantive areas, including intellectual property, professional liability, class actions, commercial, antitrust, securities and white collar litigation. The firm also has a long and proud tradition of providing pro bono representation, ranging from immigration and asylum matters to civil rights litigation. The firm’s recent pro bono awards include California Lawyer’s Attorney of the Year award in 2012 and 2014, and being named as one of Law360's Pro Bono Firms of the Year in 2013. For more information about Keker & Van Nest, visit www.kvn.com.
About Centro Legal de la Raza
Centro Legal de la Raza provides free or low-cost, bilingual, culturally-sensitive legal aid, community education and advocacy for low-income residents of the Bay Area The organization currently represents about 150 unaccompanied minors in Bay Area rocket-docket proceedings.
About the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS)
CGRS protects the fundamental human rights of women, children, LGBT, and other refugees who flee persecution. They provide cutting edge legal expertise and training, policy development, research, and in-country fact-finding and use international human rights instruments to address the root causes of persecution. In 2014 alone, the organization has responded to 116 requests for assistance in children’s cases, more than half of those for unaccompanied minors, and offered 10 trainings and presentations on children’s asylum claims.