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Maria Rodriguez

  • Hosted by Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)
  • Sponsored by Fish & Richardson P.C., Microsoft Corporation
  • Service location Atlanta, Georgia
  • Law school University of Connecticut School of Law
  • Issue area Children/Youth
  • Fellowship class year 2018
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Maria provided immigration legal services to unaccompanied children through direct representation, enhanced local capacity among pro bono and other nonprofit partners, and established coordinated social services for unaccompanied children and families in the metro Atlanta area.

Unaccompanied children are not provided appointed legal representation, which forces children to find attorneys to help them in their immigration proceedings on their own. Those children released to sponsors in Georgia are particularly vulnerable given the scarce number of non-profit legal services in the area and because the path to obtaining legal relief is particularly challenging in Atlanta, one of the most difficult immigration court jurisdictions in the country. In addition, rapidly changing immigration policies and greatly increased immigration enforcement in the Atlanta area have heightened the vulnerabilities of these children. Compounding the legal challenges and demands these children face, unaccompanied children in Georgia also face hurdles in navigating their eligibility for social services in the area.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-Fellowship period, Maria:

  • Provided full representation to 37 unaccompanied children seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), asylum, T-visas, U-visas, and DACA applications
  • Provided intakes and consultations to 40 unaccompanied children, including consultations via WhatsApp as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Trained over 150 lawyers in the Atlanta Metro Area and Northern Georgia to represent unaccompanied minors in immigration proceedings, and mentored over 50 cases placed with pro bono attorneys
  • With the support of Microsoft and Fish & Richardson attorneys, created a manual to assist pro bono attorneys assisting children with seeking SIJS and asylum in Georgia

Next Steps

Maria continues to represent unaccompanied children as a staff attorney with KIND in Atlanta. She also uses her expertise to recruit and mentor pro bono attorneys who can represent unaccompanied children.

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Sponsor: Robins Kaplan LLP

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Sponsor: Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP

Ashley Ortagus

Host: Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, Inc.

Sponsor: Greenberg Traurig, LLP, The Florida Bar Foundation

Lauren Zack

Host: Public Counsel

Sponsor: Latham & Watkins LLP, Spotify