Announcing Two New Resources for Legal Services Organizations

Announcing Two New Resources for Legal Services Organizations: Organizational Change Accelerators and Capacity Building Academy

By Roel Mangiliman, Senior Manager of Innovation and Learning

 

On June 7th, 2018, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs illuminated the Julia Morgan Ballroom in San Francisco by asking legal aid lawyers, activists, and their supporters, “What are you prepared to do today so 50 years from now access to justice is not based on access to capital?” It was an electrifying, progressive question – one calling the room to remember the long game, where we win only when we have shifted the underlying and societal conditions our clients grapple with on a daily basis.

As a legal aid support center, OneJustice believes empowering nonprofits is an important step to changing the civil legal aid system. We believe there are certain ingredients to a healthy nonprofit: strong staff, committed leaders, data collection, a culture of equity and inclusion, and a process for innovation and collaboration. These capabilities are crucial to running a nonprofit, but not often taught in law school.

OneJustice offers well-rounded opportunities for legal aid groups to advance how their staff and organizations work. Adding to our menu of support services that already includes the Executive Fellowship program, strategic planning facilitation, equity and inclusion consulting, and board governance training courses, we are excited to launch two new programs starting in October:

 

 

  • NEW: Organizational Change Accelerators: Five-month coaching program in one of three key areas of legal aid organizational development: Pro Bono Program Design and Management; Research and Evaluation; Innovation Methods.
    • Need: Insufficient resources for strengthening legal aid nonprofits in key areas
    • Benefits: By completing one of the Organizational Change Accelerators, your organization can be more data-driven, nimble, and collaborative.
    • Who should apply? Legal aid staff of all levels looking to launch or revitalize a project concerning data practices, pro bono program design or management, or leading team innovation.
    • Duration: 5 months, one day per month
    • Start: Varies by Accelerator: Pro Bono starts October 2018; Research and Evaluation starts January 2019; Innovation starts February 2019.
    • To apply and for more information: onejustice.org/oca

 

 

  • NEW: Capacity Building Academy: a free online learning program dedicated to helping legal services staff develop vital Nonprofit Management and Pro Bono Program Management skills.
    • Need: Lack of legal aid-specific training opportunities for junior and mid-level staff
    • Benefits: By participating in the Capacity Building Academy, all levels of staff can learn essential business management skills to develop leadership.
    • Who should apply? Legal aid staff of all levels
    • Duration: 3 months, one hour a week
    • Starts: October 2018 for Nonprofit Management; January 2019 for Pro Bono Design and Management  
    • For application and more information: onejustice.org/academy

With the Mayor’s words in mind, we see these programs as one route among many to advancing the potential of civil justice organizations. We hope you join us in these opportunities. For more information see onejustice.org/oca and onejustice.org/academy, or contact [email protected]

A Deeper Look at the Justice Bus

A Deeper Look at the Justice Bus

by Jess Temple, Staff Attorney for Northern California Justice Bus, and Pete James, Senior Manager of Research & Evaluation

July 22, 2018

Like many nonprofits and legal aid organizations, OneJustice is exploring how we can use data to improve our programs and services. That sure sounds great – but what does this actually look like in practice? Can data really provide meaningful insight to the complex, evolving and collaborative process of program delivery? And most importantly, can these insights actually lead to changes in how programs work on a day-to-day level?

To shed some light on this process, we’re going to describe an ongoing project to evaluate the Northern California Justice Bus project. Launched over a decade ago in 2007, the Justice Bus project takes teams of attorney and law student volunteers from urban areas to set up free legal clinics for low-income Californians living in rural and geographically isolated communities. The theory behind this project is that transferring resources in this way can help to reduce the “justice gap” that has been documented in rural areas of our state.

To begin evaluating Justice Bus, we started with a basic but important question: what types of communities does the Justice Bus actually serve, and to what extent is this consistent with the goals of the program? As is often the case in program evaluation, we had to find precise measures for concepts that we often use in more intuitive ways on a day-to-day basis. For example, do we define the community served by the physical location of the clinic or the surrounding populations from which the clients were drawn? Should we use a binary distinction between urban-rural places, consistent with the Census, or a more continuous measure that distinguishes large metropolitan cores from suburbs and small towns? As you can imagine, a host of thorny problems quickly emerged and we will be employing a diverse range of methods to understand the full picture.

For the purpose of this post, we’ll just share some analysis that provides one perspective on the geographic reach of the Justice Bus in Northern California over the last year. In this analysis, we summarize clinic locations by county and categorize counties using the CDC’s urban-rural classification scheme. In the map below, counties with a darker shade of green are progressively less urbanized, and the number of Justice Bus clinics in each county is superimposed in white. Hover over the each county to see more details.

Using this kind of map enables a form of comparison that is central to evaluative thinking. Rather than just telling the story of the counties that we did serve, it prompts us to consider why we served some counties and not others. Looking at the map in this way is revealing. The Justice Bus most frequently operates in “medium metro” counties, typified by San Joaquin County. While these counties have large urban areas, such as Stockton, they are distinct from the large metropolitan core of the Bay Area. The Justice Bus also reaches a range of counties with populations clustered in small towns, such as Humboldt and Mendocino, but Glenn is the only county served that falls into the most rural category.

So what does this data mean, in light of Justice Bus’ aim to serve “rural and isolated” communities? This was the question that Pete, as internal evaluator, posed to Jess and her team who run the Northern California Justice Bus. This led to a useful discussion about the logic and logistics that go into planning the Justice Bus. Jess shared that she sees the primary role of Justice Bus as amplifying the work of organizations that already provide services to low-income Californians. Because we partner with local community and legal services organizations to deliver legal clinics, this means that the program is often most successful in areas that already have some of these organizations that can identify local needs that may be well-served through a clinical model. It is therefore challenging to put together a successful mobile legal clinic in some of the most rural regions where there are fewer organizations to act as partners. In practice, it is also difficult to recruit pro bono volunteers to travel to regions that are located beyond a two-hour drive from the Bay Area; commitments at work and at home mean that there is only so far that volunteers can go on a given day. Putting these two factors together helps explain some of the patterns displayed in the map of clinic locations above.

This process illustrates important points about the relationship between internal evaluation and program planning. Using data to reflect on a program can help surface tensions between theory and practice that might otherwise be downplayed as simply the day-to-day challenges of running a program. As we have seen, Justice Bus has focused its efforts on the most achievable objectives; this is pragmatic, but it also means that its geographic reach is more limited than we might hope. A recognition of these limitations is prompting us to focus planning activity within acknowledged constraints and to more directly recognize the importance of non-geographic factors, such as cultivating strong relationships with community partners. It also helps identify opportunities for complementary solutions, for example supporting more regional volunteering networks rather than attempting to provide pro bono services from a distance.

We believe that shifting strategies surrounding our mobile legal service delivery from the intuitive to the data-driven, and uncovering the ways in which the impacts of our programs diverge from our aspirations, are essential to iterating a successful pro bono program at OneJustice. In doing so, we feel it’s important to share our learning early and often: improving access to justice in our state is a collective enterprise, and to make progress we need to communicate not only about our successes but also our challenges.

To subscribe to OneJustice’s quarterly research newsletter, please email [email protected]

The Advocate Voice – Staff from Pangea Legal Services Speak Out at Bay Area Rallies

The Advocate Voice

Staff from Pangea Legal Services Speak Out at Bay Area Rallies

Edwin Carmona-Cruz speaks outside ICE Headquarters at a protest in San Francisco

Edwin Carmona-Cruz speaks outside ICE Headquarters at a protest in San Francisco

July 18, 2018

In early July, in response to family separation and the administration’s "zero tolerance" policy, Bay Area communities joined in the nationwide movement to speak out. Many legal professionals joined in the rallies and protests, and some were invited to be speakers. We interviewed two such speakers from Pangea Legal Services to hear their perspective on the movement to stem attacks on immigrants and refugees.

Juan Camilo Mendez Guzman - Immigration Attorney and Director of General Litigation at Pangea Legal Services

What was your initial reaction after speaking at the Families Belong Together Rally in Berkeley?

There was a great turn-out. The organizers did a great job and there were a lot of people, a lot of allies. It’s was pretty encouraging to see. Let’s hope we can turn that into action.

What motivated you as a speaker? What inspired your speech?

Our clients. During the speech, I talked about two current clients of ours still in detention. I talked about Sonia, who won her case, but is still being detained because the government appealed. I talked about David, who was issued a $20,000 bond for his freedom even though he is not a flight risk or a danger. We recently negotiated his bond down dramatically so that his family will be able to pay. Our clients are what motivates all of us here. They are the ones who are really suffering.

As an attorney, how do you see the role of other attorneys and legal professionals at such a tumultuous time in light of this administration and its policies and attitude towards immigrants?

In this climate, attorneys need to be willing to step outside their comfort zone because this administration is changing or breaking the rules all the time. We have to think of creative ways to fight back. And that involves strategies beyond what we've traditionally done. It requires working with the community and taking different approaches — new, original approaches.

Edwin Carmona-Cruz - Paralegal at Pangea Legal Services (and OneJustice Executive Fellow Alumnus)

What was your initial reaction after speaking at the Families Belong Together - Block ICE protest in San Francisco?

There is so much enthusiasm and support to Abolish ICE but the fight does not end at Abolishing ICE. We must work to release and reunite all of the families impacted by this deportation machine and continue to advocate for a pathway towards citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country, with no criminal carve outs. We must sustain this movement and put our "Like and Shares" into concrete actions. All in all, it has been very moving seeing newly engaged folks out on the streets supporting these direct actions.

What motivated you as a speaker during the families belong together rally? What inspired your speech?

I am a child of immigrant parents from México.  It is our social responsibility to advocate for our communities and support the Right to Move for all.  My inspiration comes from the resilience, strength and love our communities have despite all of the forces against their existence in this country. Our families need us to act now!

With your role in legal services, how do you see the role of legal professionals at such a tumultuous time in light of this administration and its policies and attitude towards immigrants?

I strongly believe that those in the legal field must use their privilege and access to higher education to stand up and fight back against this administration and their xenophobic policies. Legal service providers, including myself, must support impacted communities so we can achieve real solutions that come from grassroots organizing. The fight for justice does not end in 2020, we must maintain the energy and revolutionary thinking through and through. ¡Sí se puede!

Interested in providing legal help for immigrants and refugees? Sign up for the Immigration Pro Bono Network!

Check out more images from the rallies:

Meet our Summer Interns & Law Clerks!

July 13, 2018

As summer gets into full swing, we would like to introduce our summer student interns in our San Francisco office. This year, we are fortunate to have a Development and Communications intern and two summer law clerks, who will assist with a variety of pro bono projects as well as with the Justice Bus.

Join us in welcoming Clare, Kimy and Swaaliha to the OneJustice team!

Welcome Clare! What drew you to the work of OneJustice and what will you be working on this summer?

OneJustice’s commitment to helping any person who needs legal aid regardless of circumstance or location really resonated with me. Since I was little, I have been volunteering with the homeless in Los Angeles, and I have noticed their lack of access to justice. The United States’ convoluted justice system makes it impossible for anyone except lawyers to understand its procedure. Furthermore, OneJustice helps more than just people with immediate needs. It focuses on trying to fix the source of injustice.

Clare Burgess, Development & Communications Intern

This summer, I am working as OneJustice’s Development and Communications intern. So, I will be assisting the DevComm team with any projects regarding development or OneJustice’s social media presence, such as writing this blog post.

What were you up to before coming to OneJustice?

I am a rising junior at Claremont McKenna College majoring in Government. At CMC, I write for the Claremont Journal of Law and Public Policy; I recently wrote an article comparing nonprofit laws in the United States and in the United Kingdom. Also, this past semester I studied theology and philosophy at King’s College London. And last summer, I had an internship with the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

What’s something quirky about you?

I have a twin sister who looks nothing like me.

Thanks Clare! Now, we welcome Swaaliha! Why did you choose OneJustice for your summer clerkship and what will you be doing this summer?

I was first introduced to OneJustice during the SFO protest regarding the Muslim Ban that OneJustice played a huge role in organizing. I had never been apart of a protest of that scale, so watching the information move through the hundreds and hundreds of people that showed up was awe-inspiring. OneJustice also came to Hastings during my first year of law school and did PI/PS Day. So, I interviewed with them.

So, I am on the Pro Bono Justice Clinics team. Since being on the team, I have been to a couple of the clinics through the Justice Bus program. At the clinics, I am responsible for the organizational aspect of the clinics (signing in clients, etc.). I have also been able to help consult and sit down with clients. I assisted with filling out their paperwork, while simultaneously doing the support staff work.

What were you up to before coming to OneJustice?

Kimy Cabrera (left) and Swaaliha Abdul-Rahman (right) – Pro Bono Justice Summer Law Clerks

As a 1L at Hastings, I participated in a few of the volunteer clinics. The best times I have had in law school have been while doing the volunteer clinics. One particular clinic I have enjoyed was LARC that was held at Hastings. So, basically one Saturday each month people from the Tenderloin and all over come to Hastings. We (the law students) do their intake, and then they are referred to legal volunteers for their free legal consultation. I am also participating in the Homeless Legal Services Program, where law students go to homeless shelters and help with their intake. These programs are extremely grounding and helped me connect with people.

What’s something quirky about you?

I was born two months premature, and I am a huge Harry Potter fan. So, one time when I had to write a paper, I titled it “The Girl Who Lived.”

Finally, we welcome Kimy! What drew you to the work of OneJustice, and what will you be responsible for this summer?

In law school, I learned that I really wanted to work in human rights or international human rights because I would be able to make an impact and I would be passionate about it. When I was looking through different summer opportunities, I realized that I wanted to be California specific because I am so grateful, as an immigrant, to be in a state that has been so welcoming. I first heard about OneJustice when Mai, from the L.A. team, came to talk about the Justice Bus at USC. I had been to some of the counties that she talked about, and I realized their limitations of access. I went to the career center to discuss human rights summer opportunities, and they gave me this list from public interest career day with many different organizations. I recognized OneJustice’s logo. I decided to apply because OneJustice seems really in tune with the legal atmosphere and the the needs of the Californian population. I looked online and saw their vast amount of programs throughout California. What really sold the deal for me, though, was their question on the application for clerkships. It was all about cultural sensitivity and equity, which I have come to value a lot in my own life.

At OneJustice, I am on the Pro Bono Justice Team on the consulting side. I am responsible for helping to gather data and outreach towards Pro Bono Managers and Coordinators from different Legal Service Organizations. I have also been working with the Immigration Pro Bono Network on their newsletters, events, website. Mainly assisting with their organizational needs. With that, I’ve also been conducting a lot of case study interviews.

What were you up to before coming to San Francisco for your clerkship?

I do a lot with the International Law and Relations clubs at USC. This last year, I worked as an interpreter for the International Human Rights Clinic. I worked on a human trafficking case with them, which reminded me of all the good I could do as a lawyer. I thought that that was an awesome experience. I also did Street Law, which was a program where we taught high school students about law. I was a high school teacher for a year in the Philippines before law school, so it was cool to revisit that.

Lastly, what’s something quirky about you?

I have very strange hobbies. I like to kayak in a lake near a decommissioned power plant because I love kayaking. But it also makes me feel like I am in a Marvel movie. I also have recently gotten into wood burning, which is like pyrography.

We’re so grateful to have such amazing & talented students joining us to bring legal help to those in need!

A Hippo Fan, an Art Appreciator, a Podcast Lover, and a Cheeto-Eater

There’s been an awful lot going on in the world and within the realm of civil legal aid. And while everyone on the OneJustice team has been putting their nose to the grindstone, we almost forgot to introduce our newest group of team members! The four newest faces at OneJustice all come to us with amazing skill sets and serve in vital roles for the organization. And what’s more – they’re all amazing people. As we do with all our new staff members, we asked them to answer these four questions:

  • What drew you to OneJustice’s vision, mission, and strategies?
  • Tell us a bit about your position at OneJustice and what you hope to achieve?
  • What was your path in coming to OneJustice?
  • And please tell us something about yourself that not everyone might know.

With that, please welcome Lauren Hipolito, Bruno Huizar, Joel Kim, and Chantilly Rocha!

 

Lauren Hipolito – Corporate Relations Manager

I realized that my drive and motivation in my professional life was people – helping people, working with people. Working with an amazing group of individuals towards a greater mission, that was what I wanted and with my legal experience, OneJustice was where I knew I should be. I had actually been following OneJustice for a few years and have even applied in the past, but I am a true believer in timing and this time, it all just aligned.

As the Corporate Relations Manager, my job is to build and cultivate meaningful relationships with new corporations, existing corporate partners and law firms to further support our mission, recruit volunteers and broaden OneJustice’s universe and reach.

I went to the University of San Francisco with a major in Psychology and I was told by a professor that everything in law is just a mind game – so that Psychology major has really come in handy in my career. I’ve been working in some sort of legal position since I was 20 years old. I went from being a process server for CPS in the Tenderloin and Oakland to working in a criminal defense/family law firm back home in Stockton after college. After getting my Paralegal Certificate in Stockton, I got a contract job at Google, then at the Hewlett Foundation and after that, Playstation. I wasn’t really sure what type of law I wanted to root down in, so contract positions were a good process of elimination. After Playstation, I was offered a contract position at the U.S. Attorney’s Office here in San Francisco and I was immediately thrown into a world of RICO, gangs, guns, violence, etc. Exciting as all of that was, it was the clients and victims that motivated me, drove me to work harder every day, case by case. After that contract sadly ended, I jumped back into corporate law and knew immediately that that was not where I wanted to be, which lead me to applying to this position at OneJustice. See what I mean about timing?

I really REALLY love Hippos, (because of my last name and elementary school nickname). I also love cooking, I come from a pretty mixed, multi-racial family so we kind of cook a little bit of everything but my favorite dishes are usually Mexican or Filipino. There may be some days when I make the whole SF office smell like adobo or posole, I apologize in advance.

Bruno Huizar – Pro Bono Justice Program Associate


I am a movement builder deeply committed to organizing with directly impacted communities to end the mass detention and deportation of immigrants. I joined OneJustice because I want to transform the legal aid system and ensure all immigrants have access to life-changing resources and legal services.

My position as Program Associate allows me to utilize my personal, professional, and community organizing experience to defend and protect immigrant communities by expanding pro bono legal services to immigrants in deportation proceedings throughout Los Angeles. One of my core responsibilities at OneJustice is working with local nonprofit organizations and law schools to design and coordinate the Los Angeles Pro Bono Removal Defense Collaborative. We are building local and national partnerships to engage and provide training materials to law students, attorneys, and additional volunteers in order to increase pro bono legal services for immigrants in removal proceedings.

Additionally, I am coordinating with the L.A. Raids Rapid Response Network and working alongside immigrant communities to organize against ICE raids and enforcement operations. I hope to achieve a sustainable legal and organizing network that successfully prevents deportations in Los Angeles County.

Prior to joining the OneJustice team, I worked with Lambda Legal where I conducted hundreds of legal intakes and provided information and resources to people living with HIV and LGBTQIA+ communities across the country. I worked alongside the Transgender Rights Project and assisted in coordinating the Name Change Project which provided pro bono attorneys to transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) communities in order to assist TGNC communities amend their identity documents.

I graduated from University of California, San Diego and received a dual degree in Ethnic Studies and Political Science with a focus in International Relations.

I really love art of all mediums, cooking with friends, and collectively reimagining and rebuilding a society where all living beings are in harmony.

 

Joel Kim – Staff Attorney, Pro Bono Justice Consulting

I work at OneJustice because I believe that all people deserve meaningful access to the legal system. At OneJustice, I pursue innovative approaches to increasing access to justice for all.

As a Staff Attorney on the Pro Bono Justice Consulting team, I work with legal services organizations throughout California to build up their pro bono practices. As a former direct services attorney myself, I know that legal services attorneys work incredibly hard. I want to help these organizations multiply their impact by implementing thoughtful and effective pro bono projects. My current focus has been on developing pro bono networks in different regions throughout the Bay Area. Down the line, I plan to develop training modules and other tools for legal services organizations to create their own pro bono networks. My goal is to assist legal services organizations to develop new pro bono partnerships and improve current partnerships.

Before joining OneJustice, I was a staff attorney with the Homeless Action Center in Berkeley, where I represented clients in public benefits and Social Security disability claims. I also worked as a Public Interest Fellow with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, where I coordinated a free legal clinic in collaboration with the GLIDE Foundation. While in law school, I interned with the Christian Legal Aid of Los Angeles, the National Housing Law Project, and LAF. I graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.S. in Forestry and Natural Resource Management. I received my JD from the University of Chicago Law School.

I love podcasts! I listen to KQED’s Bay Curious (weird facts about the Bay Area), NPR’s Ask Me Another (trivia quiz show), and the California Politics Podcast from the LA Times.

 

Chantilly Rocha – Development Assistant


I grew up in an neighborhood of immigrants from all over the world and witnessed the legal struggle that my friends and their families endured as they were trying to gain citizenship, green cards, while feeling unsafe of local law enforcement. I wanted an opportunity to help my peers as they were striving to make the most of their life here in America in consideration of the risks and fear my community members faced. One Justice has created a immersive network of law professionals and volunteers to increase the access that so many individuals in California are in need of. We are a team who have the responsibility to work innovatively together in providing meaningful support and legal justice to those in need.

As the Development Assistant, I assist in elevating donor stewardship within our major donor program. I also provide support in managing fundraising efforts – including planning, visual design, and assembling components.

I am currently studying to obtain my B.S. at San Francisco State University. For four years, I served as a board member and class ambassador for the AVID program which encouraged and helped  low income students in the community to pursue higher education, and explore their options. During those four years, I also served as a group leader for the CIMAS Leadership Association in Santa Ana and conducted workshops and youth summits to organize community service events and improve team building. My community service revolved around assisting with teachers and academic tutors in the  AVID program at a local middle school in Orange County

I really love hiking in Pacifica, bike camping, taking photos, painting, fashion forecast reports, and eating hot cheetos.

OneJustice Opposes AG Sessions’ Decision to Restrict Asylum Protections

 

June 15, 2018

[Content Warning: Domestic violence]

On Monday, June 11, Attorney General Jeff Sessions used a rarely utilized power to reverse a Board of Immigration Appeals decision in Matter of A-B- and reject the asylum claim of a woman fleeing 15 years of extreme domestic violence in El Salvador. This decision will have profound negative effects on women seeking protection in the US based on domestic violence in their home countries, as well as minors fleeing persecution from gangs – both of which have been firmly upheld by immigration courts since 2014 as legitimate grounds for asylum.

OneJustice firmly opposes this sweeping move to deny asylum seekers the opportunity to seek safety in the United States.

The woman in Matter of A-B- was brutally beaten (including while pregnant), bashed into walls, and threatened with death at knife and gun point, with no relief from law enforcement. And her abuse did not occur in isolation. Violence against women in El Salvador is extreme – the country sees the highest rates of femicide in the world, with over 500 women murdered (1 in 5,000) in 2016.

Likewise, it is well documented that the majority of those fleeing persecution from gangs in Central America are women and children. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees reports that “gangs routinely threaten and recruit children as young as five or 6.” Many of these children are often offered a horrifying choice: join the gang, or be killed.

Yet these facts and the facts of the case in Matter of A-B- were ignored by the Attorney General, who stated that asylum claims “pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence” should “generally” not be approved. This statement is wide-sweeping and will immediately impact the decisions of asylum adjudicators around the country. It represents an attack not only on refugees seeking protection, but specifically an attack on women and children fleeing violence.

To be clear, seeking asylum from violence is a human right recognized by both international and US domestic law. Moreover, those with valid claims to asylum (in other words, those who are fleeing persecution for one of five reasons) cannot be punished for entering the country illegally. Prior to this decision, immigration courts had long recognized the real threat facing people fleeing their homes in Central America – as well as the threat of violence should they return. The Attorney General’s claim that this decision somehow restores previously “[abandoned] legal discipline and sound legal concepts” is flatly wrong.

Despite the Attorney General’s decision, domestic violence survivors and survivors of gang persecution who meet the legal requirements for asylum must still be provided a fair opportunity to present their individual claims. OneJustice will be tracking the impact of this recent decision and strategically intervening to push back against Sessions’ erroneous and harmful interpretation of the law and support organizations and communities fighting for justice on the ground.

You can stand up for the rights of refugees!

As an attorney, you can represent a woman seeking asylum – including through the following resources:

As an individual, you can ensure that our policymakers understand the basic principles that underpin American laws and take action to protect the basic human rights of all on US soil. You can also lend your financial support to organizations working to ensure the basic rights of immigrants, and to represent men, women and children in deportation proceedings, including:

Interested in providing pro bono help for immigrants and their families across the state?
Sign up for OneJustice’s Immigration Pro Bono Network to receive volunteer opportunities and immigration updates!

Celebrating Five Years of the Rural Justice Collaborative!

May 17, 2018

The Rural Justice Collaborative turns five years old today! In celebration of this major milestone, today we wanted to look back on the history and impact of this important and innovative program.

In 2012, members of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel met with then-Vice President Joe Biden to discuss access to justice issues. During the meeting, the Vice President challenged the private sector to increase its involvement in providing pro bono legal help for people in need. Rising to the challenge, APBCo initiated the IMPACT projects (“Involving More Pro Bono Attorneys in Our Communities Together”), a nationwide group of initiatives which seek to engage pro bono resources to increase access to justice for low income people.

One of these projects was the Rural Justice Collaborative (or RJC), which launched in 2013 with funding and support from Cooley LLP and staffing from OneJustice. The first clinic was held five years ago today in Napa, where volunteer attorneys from Cooley LLP and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP assisted eleven clients with filing and renewing their DACA applications.

Since that first clinic, RJC has hosted 117 clinics that have helped over 1100 people in a variety of legal areas – including immigration, naturalization, DACA applications, housing, and expungement of criminal records. The nearly 1000 attorneys who have volunteered with RJC have provided thousands of hours of free legal help. RJC volunteers regularly travel to rural areas around Northern California, including Petaluma, Oakley, Gilroy, South Lake Tahoe, and Pittsburg Bay Point, among others.

Volunteer attorneys and a client at a recent RJC clinic in Sonoma County

Volunteer attorneys and a client at a recent RJC clinic in Sonoma County

The attorneys who volunteer their time with RJC are simply remarkable. Many, in fact, are repeat volunteers who are happy to help whenever (and wherever) needed. Lusik Gasparyan, who manages RJC in the San Francisco office, enjoys getting to work with the committed volunteers who volunteer with RJC. “I love meeting the volunteers that come to RJC clinics and learning about their experiences and passions,” she says. “They make genuine connections with the clients and treat the clients with empathy and respect.” She goes on to describe one RJC volunteer in particular who, despite working two jobs, comes to every RJC clinic she can. “She greets folks with a hug and a huge smile. People like her make every legal clinic a success.”

RJC’s clinics have been critical in response to the new challenges facing immigrants in Northern California – including the rescission of DACA and the surge in immigration enforcement. Given this need, all of this year’s RJC clinics have focused on immigration legal issues and DACA applications. It’s no exaggeration to say that the legal help clients receive can often have a dramatic impact on their futures. As a recent 19 year old DACA recipient noted at a clinic:

“I wish we could change the current unfair immigration laws, so no family has to feel fear of deportation as I feel. I know I have a bright future…I like to major in computer science and contribute to this society.”

At the end of the day, none of these clinics are about getting the right papers filled out. It’s about the hope, security, and sense of opportunity our clients feel when they walk out the door. We are privileged to stand alongside these Californians who, like the 19-year-old quoted above, are working to build a better future for themselves and their communities.

So today, we want to say thank you to all of the volunteers and law firms who have supported the Rural Justice Collaborative, and to all of the incredible community organizations we have the privilege of working alongside. We’re looking forward to a bright future where we can continue to work together to bring justice to even more rural Californians. Here’s to another five years!

To learn more about the Rural Justice Collaborative,  contact Ellie Dehghan, Senior Staff Attorney, at [email protected].

Want to support the Rural Justice Collaborative? Make a donation today!

OneJustice Condemns DOJ Move to Separate Children from Parents at the US Border

May 14, 2018

On Monday, May 7, 2018, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” approach to migrants at the US border, including an attempt to prosecute anyone who crosses the Southern border, and systemic separation of children from their parents. OneJustice opposes these policies, which have the potential to destroy the lives of migrant children and families. The Attorney General’s statement represents an un-American deviation from common standards of decency and a violation of domestic and international law.

The right to seek and enjoy asylum is a fundamental human right codified by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and reaffirmed by international, regional and domestic refugee laws around the world. The United States was one of the main authors of both the UDHR and the 1951 Refugee Convention, which reflected the global community’s desire to give human beings a means of escape from atrocities like those seen in World War II.

We seem to have forgotten this past.

In 2014, the UN Refugee Agency conducted a study of 404 unaccompanied or separated children arriving in the US from Central America. This study found that 58% of these children may have asylum claims and thus legally have a right to present themselves to the U.S. Since that time, violence has only escalated in the region, giving women, children and families no option but to face extreme danger to try and reach the Southern border of the United States.

Jessica Therkelsen, Director of the Pro Bono Justice program at OneJustice, condemned the administration’s move: “To greet these migrants with prosecution and family separation is unconscionable, inhumane, and ignores their basic right to ask for asylum.”

Under this new, stricter system, children will be treated as if they were arriving alone at the border and thus processed in a very different system from their parents. This means that any child NOT from Mexico or Canada will be placed with a family member or in a shelter, while their parents wait in detention for prolonged immigration processing. This is despite the fact that, between October and December of 2017, the US government lost track of 1,500 migrant children it had placed with sponsors in that period – with evidence that human trafficking of some of these children had occurred.

At best, the federal government’s new policy violates the basic rights of the child and of asylum seekers, and at worst is complicit in what could become systemic human trafficking.

We call on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to put child welfare and basic human rights at the center of US migration policy, to reverse the policy of total prosecution of migrants at the border, and to reverse the policy of removing migrant children from their parents. We stand in solidarity with our partner organizations across the state who are standing at the frontlines to help immigrants and refugees assert their human rights.

Interested in providing pro bono help for immigrants and their families across the state? Sign up for OneJustice’s Immigration Pro Bono Network to receive volunteer opportunities and immigration updates!

OneJustice Statement on DOJ Decision to Restore Immigrant Legal Information Programs

April 25, 2018

San Francisco, CA — Speaking today before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice will not be moving to suspend the Legal Orientation Program (LOP) and the Immigration Court Helpdesk (ICH) program. This announcement reverses an April 10th announcement from the DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review that indicated both programs would be suspended while the department conducts a review.

OneJustice applauds this reversal and celebrates that these programs will be able to once again serve thousands of immigrants and their families across the country.

At their core, both programs are designed to ensure greater fairness in the immigration court system. As the Vera Institute of Justice describes, “LOP empowers program participants to represent themselves if they have a valid claim under existing law or to determine that their best course is to accept deportation.” OneJustice previously published a statement condemning the DOJ’s move to end the programs, noting that the move would have a devastating impact on immigrants trying to understand their rights in immigration court.

We would like to thank members of Congress and everyone who voiced their support for these vital programs. Today’s announcement, however, does not guarantee the continued existence of either LOP or ICH; rather, it allows the programs to continue during a review by the Department of Justice. Nevertheless, we are optimistic. Julia Wilson, OneJustice CEO, stated, “We are confident that the upcoming review will reflect what past reviews have shown: that LOP and ICH protect due process for immigrants facing deportation, and annually save the federal government millions of dollars.”

OneJustice will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates on actions affecting the programs.

Interested in providing pro bono help for immigrants and their families across the state?

Sign up for OneJustice’s Immigration Pro Bono Network to receive volunteer opportunities and immigration updates!

Wear Jeans with a Purpose – Join Us for Denim Day 2018.

April 24, 2018

Content Warning: Sexual Assault

We want to take a moment to talk about an uncomfortable issue: sexual assault. In the last year we’ve witnessed unprecedented bravery as more and more survivors of sexual assault and harassment come forward to say #MeToo and confront their abusers. The recent groundswell of survivors who have been empowered to share their stories is both historic and encouraging, but unfortunately it is still not nearly enough.

That’s why we want to encourage you to take part in Denim Day 2018.

Those of us who work with survivors every day know that, despite our current cultural moment, the vast majority of people victimized by sexual assault never come forward. By the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics’ most recent estimate, over 77% of all sexual assaults go unreported. This low rate of reporting is rooted in the harsh reality that, for many survivors of sexual assault, reporting an incident can be as traumatic as the incident itself. There are countless stories of survivors who have been stigmatized, discredited, and blamed for what happened to them after bringing their stories to light. One of them is the story that inspired the global Denim Day movement.

Pledge to End Sexual Violence: Wear Jeans with a Purpose on April 25. Visit denimdayinfo.org

Image Credit: Peace Over Violence

In 1992, an 18-year-old driving student in Southern Italy was raped by her instructor on a secluded mountain road. The physical evidence was clear, and Italian police initially won a quick conviction against the instructor. However, after years of appeals, the student was re-victimized by the Italian Supreme Court when they let her rapist go free. In overturning the conviction, the court found that the victim must have consented to the sexual conduct because she was wearing tight jeans. Ignoring mounds of physical evidence and testimony otherwise, the court absurdly found that no attacker could have wrestled a pair of tight jeans off his victim without the victim’s help and consent. In that moment, Italy’s Supreme Court made the mere act of wearing denim a legal invitation to get assaulted – but Italy’s female lawmakers immediately struck back in protest by wearing jeans to Parliament.

Since the 1999 “Denim Defense” ruling and protests, Denim Day has been an annual protest against the ridiculous and harmful – but all too common – perception that a victim’s clothes, demeanor, or history can invite sexual assault. Here in California, Peace Over Violence (one of OneJustice’s partner organizations) has spearheaded the Denim Day movement by encouraging people to wear jeans with a purpose on the last Wednesday of April. The simple act of wearing denim on Denim Day has become a powerful reminder that there is never an excuse or invitation to rape.

Joining the Denim Day movement is not just a way to bring the conversation around sexual assault to your friends and colleagues: it is a strong symbol of solidarity. By wearing jeans with a purpose on April 25th, you are signaling to the silenced survivors around you that they can come forward with your support. Though it might seem like a small gesture, that kind of positive reinforcement can make all the difference.

OneJustice believes that the support and advocacy for these survivors does not begin or end on Denim Day; nor should we only be discussing the impacts of sexual assault during the month of April, which is also Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We must always hold survivors in our hearts. In collaboration with our community partners in Los Angeles, we are honored to help survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault navigate the complexities of our civil justice system and find legal solutions to some of the problems they encounter every day. We look to you – our colleagues, friends, and supporters – to consider the ways in which you can support survivors. That includes providing them with the resources and legal services they need to find their voice and move forward in their lives with safety and security.

With that in mind, we hope you will join us for Denim Day 2018, learn more about the event here, and register your participation with Peace Over Violence. And if you’re interested in getting involved with IMPACT LA, our collaborative legal services program for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, contact OneJustice Staff Attorney Michael Palzes at [email protected].

Together, we can dispel the disgusting myth that any survivor of sexual assault was ever “asking for it.” And together, we can support survivors today, and every day.

– The OneJustice Team