Jennie G. Kim is the quintessential public interest attorney, dedicating her legal career to advocating for the “voiceless” in our communities. Ms. Kim is a Staff Attorney in the New York Legal Assistance Group’s (NYLAG) Storm Response Unit. After Hurricane Sandy, there was a dire need for legal assistance and representation in foreclosure and homeowners insurance cases. Ms. Kim was willing to take on this initiative and assist New Yorkers in legal matters pertaining to homeowners insurance, consumer law, and foreclosures. Prior to working with NYLAG, Ms. Kim worked at the Legal Services of Hudson Valley for approximately 5 ½ years, representing clients in the HIV, Domestic Violence, and Disability units in procuring government benefits that they were entitled to. In addition, Ms. Kim was employed at a Civil Rights law firm for about one year, working primarily on police brutality cases. Furthermore, while attending CUNY Law School, she was actively involved in the International Human Rights Clinic, working on cases involving domestic violence.
Throughout her professional career, Ms. Kim always found herself working with the immigrant community in New York. In fact, she founded two DACA Clinics (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) in Middletown and Newburg, New York after learning about the underserved immigrant communities in those locations. Having worked on DACA clinics and having constant interaction with immigrants, Ms. Kim was determined to learn about immigration law. Therefore, unsurprisingly, Ms. Kim was immediately interested in volunteering with the Safe Passage Project after attending a Safe Passage coordinated CLE concerning Unaccompanied Minors (UAC). She was especially eager to work on a case involving Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), as she had a lot of experience in family court.
Earlier this year, Ms. Kim zealously worked on two cases with the Safe Passage Project: a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status case and an Asylum case. The fact that Ms. Kim “won” a gang-based asylum case was monumental because such cases are challenging. The client in that case requested asylum based on past persecution by and a well-founded fear of future persecution by the MS-13 (Salvadoran gang), as he barely escaped death by members of the gang for refusing to join them. Although he tried to escape the gang by moving to another town in El Salvador, members of the gang eventually found him. He realized that the best way for him to avoid being killed by the gang would be to migrate to the U.S., as the MS-13 is now prevalent in most of Central America. After working arduously to build a persuasive gang-based asylum case for this client, Ms. Kim received a ruling in her client’s favor.
Furthermore, Ms. Kim’s SIJS case involved an 18-year-old young woman who lived with her father in Honduras, while her mother lived in the U.S. Her father never used the money that her mother sent from the U.S. to pay for her expenses; therefore, she was forced to quit school and work 15 hours a day, 7 days a week at the age of 14. The young woman migrated to the U.S. to escape this lifestyle and to reunite with her mother. With the help of Ms. Kim and Safe Passage, this young woman has obtained Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. She is elated thather client is no longer in removal proceedings and can fulfill her dreams of living in the U.S. and pursuing a medical assistant degree.
Ms. Kim is very grateful for the tremendous opportunity to work on these cases with the Safe Passage Project. It was truly a humbling experience for her, as she had never worked on an immigration case before this experience.
She advises any attorney that is interested in taking on a Safe Passage case to do so without hesitation and to enjoy it for what it is. She expressed that this experience truly allows an attorney to help young immigrants to establish a life in the United States. She further stated, “[t]hese are children who have had many things go wrong in their lives, and by taking on this kind of case, attorneys are helping these children to have a more positive outlook on life and giving them the opportunity for a better future.”
***Safe Passage Attorney of the Week Feature written by NYLS Student and Safe Passage volunteer, Natalie Bello.