The Gift of Opportunity

Be an opener of doors … -Ralph Waldo Emmerson

Jane Doe, a 10-year-old girl born in Honduras, found herself in an unlikely place – the United States – unaccompanied, undocumented and among strangers. Normally, an undocumented unaccompanied minor would be sent back their home country.1

Since Jane is a minor, it would be inappropriate to reveal her actual story. We can imagine, however, why she traveled over 1,000 miles from Honduras to Texas. Honduras can be a harsh place for children. Many Hondurans are powerless to protect their children against forced recruitment by urban gangs.2 Honduras is a source and transit country for children forced into sex trafficking and manual labor. Powerless against abusers, parents can’t turn to their government for help. “Honduras does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking … [and] maintains limited law enforcement efforts against child sex trafficking offenders….”3 Although we don’t know Jane’s story exactly, we do know that returning to Honduras meant “certain poverty, abuse, trauma, and even death.”4

Jane was blessed to make her way to the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas where she met Sarah Crow.5

On loan from her law firm, Sarah Crow, an attorney in the United States, was a champion for Jane.6 The fight was difficult. Of thousands of unaccompanied children that enter the United States, only an infinitesimal percentage apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). SIJS permits undocumented children who meet certain requirements to become lawful permanent residents. However, in 2005, only 660 children received SIJS nationwide.7 Sarah Crow could have been overwhelmed by the tens of thousands of people who surge across the border to seek status in the United States every year. She could have retreated from the fight because the odds against her were just too high. Rather, she chose to give, according to some traditions – the highest form of giving – an opportunity. In this case, an opportunity for a life.

… today there was one sweet, sassy, little girl who had suffered mind-blowing trauma and fled her home country of Honduras to find a little bit of peace in the United States, and I had the knowledge and power to help her and to stop her from being returned to an unspeakable horror.8

Sarah Crow’s act of championing the cause of someone unable to defend herself, or to act by herself, was noble.

During the last week in October, the American Bar Association celebrates pro bono work. Many have equated the phrase pro bono to mean “free.” The celebration week might be a great opportunity to revisit the actual Latin meaning – “for good.” To take it a step further, this phrase has been abbreviated from pro bono publico – “for the public good.” At a minimum, why not add at least one thing on your to-do list to celebrate this week? One thing that is outside of your day-to-day practice and is good for someone else. Maybe someone who needs a champion.

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  1.  ©2015 Brandon L. Blankenship. Image Credit NonInnocent Stare Gabi Jguma CC by 2.0. Jane is not an actual name. This is a fictionalized account of an actual case.
  2. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook. /library/publications/the-world-factbook, Transnational Issues: Refugees and internally displaced persons. (14OCT015)
  3. Supra. at Trafficking in persons.
  4. (14 October 2015).
  5. HRI of North Texas “offers free legal services to victims who are most vulnerable and, often times, completely invisible to the current justice system.” HRI is not affiliated with the Nobility Academy.
  6. Neither Sarah nor her law firm, AKIN GUMP STRAUSS HAUER & FELD LLP are affiliated with the Nobility Academy.
  7. Office of Immigr. State., Dept. of Homeland Sec., 2005 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics 22 tbl. 7 (2006) (hereinafter 2005 Yearbook), available at
  8. (14 October 2015)