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Helping an Undocumented Child Secure Life in the US

February 8, 2013

With the assistance of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Kaye Scholer recently represented an unaccompanied minor from Ecuador in immigration proceedings in a successful effort to remain in the United States.

KIND is an organization that seeks volunteer attorneys to represent unaccompanied minors who have entered the US immigration system alone and who would otherwise have no legal representation. One such youth, Jonathan L., was detained as an unaccompanied minor after crossing the US-Mexican border when he was only 11 years old. After being processed, Jonathan was released and came to live with his immediate family in New York, where he has lived for the last three years.

Associates Jonathan Agudelo and Paul Mignano took on Jonathan L.’s case, with Special Counsel Richard Smolev supervising. The Kaye Scholer team first came aboard to assist Jonathan in a voluntary departure out of the country, as he did not qualify for affirmative relief to stay in the US.

The case took a positive turn after the summer of 2011, when US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a renewed focus on prosecutorial discretion for non-priority cases. The practical effect of prosecutorial discretion is administrative closure of a case, allowing an individual to remain in the US (although without formal legal status). In an effort to allow Jonathan L. to remain in the country, Jonathan and Paul prepared a request for ICE to exercise prosecutorial discretion. Among other things, the Kaye Scholer team presented a multitude of school, church and personal recommendations and other documentary evidence, all aimed to show that Jonathan L. had built a life in his community and was thriving in the United States.

Thanks to Jonathan and Paul’s hard work, the department agreed to exercise prosecutorial discretion and the immigration judge administratively closed Jonathan L.’s case at the end of 2012. For KIND, Jonathan L.’s case was one of the first to successfully close based on prosecutorial discretion. Now 14 years old, Jonathan L. is able to remain the country with his family and pursue his high school education in New York.

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