In 2021, Davis Polk was referred by The Door, a youth services organization, to the Pinnock family’s case – four sisters had escaped their abusive father by fleeing to the United States. In order to stay and move on to a new, brighter chapter of their lives, they needed help securing green cards.

In their home country of Jamacia, the Pinnock sisters, who are now in their teens and early twenties, had been physically and verbally abused by their father. They also lived in a dangerous part of the country that restricted their ability to move about, making it even more difficult for them to avoid abuse. To protect the physical, emotional and mental well-being of her daughters, their mother knew they had to leave. Together, they left Jamaica and sought safety and stability in the Bronx, New York.

Once here, a team of Davis Polk lawyers worked with the sisters to secure them Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), which provides minors who have been abused, neglected or abandoned by one or both parents and are currently living in the U.S. with a special expedited process to apply for legal status.

SIJS cases are unique in that they start in family court where minors apply for a special findings order that, if granted by a judge, declares their eligibility for SIJS. This order allows the minors to then apply for SIJS with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

While applying for SIJS in the Bronx County Family Court, the eldest daughter testified about the abuse she and her sisters endured at the hands of their father. The judge did not ask the younger daughters to provide detailed testimonies in an effort to alleviate as much pain as possible from the process. In the end, the girls were awarded their special findings order, and the judge commended the girls and their mother on their strength and composure in the courtroom.

Edwin Paillant, a second-year Mergers & Acquisitions associate, played an instrumental role in the sisters’ case. He interviewed the family, prepared court documents, filed immigration paperwork and served as advocate throughout the process, constantly working to minimize potential re-traumatization along the way. After much time spent with the sisters, Edwin was impressed by their strong positive spirit and perseverance throughout the process. “The girls are full of positive energy, in spite of the circumstances they endured,” he said. “They are outgoing, happy, optimistic and focused on the future, and their mother works tirelessly to ensure the best interests of her daughters.”

Today, three of the sisters have their green cards, and the family anticipates that the fourth will arrive shortly. Edwin continues to check in periodically with the Pinnocks while they await the final green card, which has been delayed due to a backlog. All four will be eligible to apply for citizenship in five years. Finally safe in the U.S., they are happily moving on with their new lives, pursuing their education and working toward their goals – one sister joined the Army, another is in college, one just graduated from high school and the youngest will be in eleventh grade come September.

This case is one of many that reflects Davis Polk’s long-term commitment to representing vulnerable children. Edwin looks forward to continuing work on similar immigration matters and hopes to make this a career-long effort. He is currently representing a minor from Colombia in another SIJS case.

“As the child of immigrants, I want to give back and help other families,” Edwin said. “I believe that no one should be denied access to a better life. In my role at Davis Polk, I have the ability to effect change through my pro bono work, and I look forward to continuing to support immigrant families.”

Learn more about Davis Polk’s Pro Bono program.