April 20, 2018
San Francisco, CA — On April 10, 2018, the federal Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which manages the national immigration court system, announced plans to end the Legal Orientation Program (LOP) at the end of April and the Immigration Court Helpdesk (ICH) Program at the end of July 2018. OneJustice vehemently opposes this action, which will have a devastating impact on immigrants and their families across the country trying to understand their rights and access basic fairness in immigration court.
Since its inception in 2003, the LOP has provided critical information and resources to immigrants (both detained and non-detained), including about how the immigration court process works and what recourse they may have to fight deportation. The LOP, managed by the Vera Institute of Justice, operates in 38 detention centers across the United States to reach over 50,000 immigrants – including in Los Angeles and San Diego. The ICH Program similarly provides legal advice to non-detained immigrants in courts in Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, New York City, and San Antonio.
At their core, both programs are designed to ensure greater fairness in the immigration court system. For someone in detention and/or facing deportation, the legal process is often confusing and frightening – even if they may very well have a valid reason to halt their deportation, such as by seeking asylum. Family members seeking justice or answers regarding their loved ones find themselves equally at a loss. Since four out of five immigrants are unable to access legal representation, both programs provide a vital life line for people in detention and deportation proceedings. As the Vera Institute 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.”
Julia R. Wilson, OneJustice CEO, condemned the move by the DOJ. She stated: “In seeking to shutdown the LOP and ICH, the Department of Justice has demonstrated its cruel and callous commitment to bolstering the country’s deportation machine at the cost of immigrants’ due process rights.”
Beyond its purpose of ensuring fairness, the LOP has had a track record of increasing efficiency in the country’s overwhelmed immigration courts. It decreases the time people spend in detention, facilitates family unity, and saves the federal government millions of dollars. A 2012 study from the DOJ showed that the LOP created an annual net savings of $17.8 million dollars.
OneJustice stands in solidarity with Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project- Los Angeles and the American Bar Association Immigration Justice Project in condemning this cruel decision. Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project serves thousands of indigent individuals every year at Adelanto Detention Facility and at the help desk at the Los Angeles Immigration Court through both of these programs. The ABA Immigration Justice Project likewise serves clients seeking legal help in San Diego at the Otay Mesa Detention Center and in the Immigration Court in San Diego. (For a full list of LOP facilities in the United States, click here).
The DOJ’s action comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision that detained immigrants have no right to a bond hearing, and the Department of Justice’s newly-mandated quotas for immigration judges to speed up deportations. OneJustice calls on members of Congress to reject the DOJ’s proposed action and support constitutional rights for all people – regardless of immigration status.
We also urge you to call your Member of Congress to ask them to oppose the DOJ’s decision to suspend the LOP and ICH Programs (you can click here to find contact information for your members of Congress).
Immigrants in our community depend on these vital lifelines to information about their due process rights! Call your member of Congress today!
Interested in providing pro bono help for immigrants and their families across the state?
April 3, 2018
You might know that OneJustice has welcomed plenty of new staff members in the last year. But those aren’t all the new faces around here. In addition to all our awesome new teammates, we recently added a new member of the Board of Directors: Ellen LaPointe, President and CEO of Northern California Grantmakers! Ellen joined the Board last fall, and we finally had time to sit down with her to ask a few questions. We hope you’ll enjoy getting to know her as much as we have!
What made you interested in becoming a OneJustice Board member?
Like many people, I am alarmed by the threats we are confronting in the current political environment. In the wake of the 2016 elections I was urgently motivated to become involved in an organization that is focused on those who are most at-risk. OneJustice fit the bill perfectly.
I am so inspired by the dedication, passion, skill, and creativity of the leadership and team at OneJustice. The organization is providing vital, life-changing services to people and nonprofit organizations in communities that are overlooked and excluded throughout California. I believe that without OneJustice, thousands of people would suffer needless, avoidable harm. Board service is one way I can contribute to the success of the organization, and I am proud to be a part of it.
What is your role at Northern California Grantmakers (NCG), and how do you hope to use your perspective as a Board member?
NCG helps funders do their work better, collaborate more effectively to amplify philanthropic impact, and wield their collective influence to inform and shape policies that affect the communities and people we all care about.
As the President and CEO, my job is to ensure we have a compelling vision, actionable goals, and effective strategies for our work. I create the conditions within the organization to enable the staff to deliver great results and thrive, and engage members, partners, and stakeholders along the way to amplify our visibility and leverage our efforts. I am also an attorney. I look forward to contributing my perspective, knowledge, and skills in any way that will be helpful to OneJustice.
What are your hopes for your time as a Board member?
This is a critical moment in our country. So many of the gains we have painstakingly achieved over decades to support and strengthen our communities and create opportunities for people to prosper and thrive are in peril. How we respond now will have an impact on these communities and the people who live in them for years, if not generations. Moreover, there are still many unmet needs, and we have aspirations and hopes regarding how to make things better. We must continue to stand for our values and push for more progress, even as we resist efforts to undermine us. I can’t imagine a better time to be involved with OneJustice.
What’s something you really love?
I love my family. I love laughter. I love kindness. I love to sing. I love creating community. I love the ocean. I love this question, because answering it made me happy!
Welcome to the OneJustice family, Ellen!
March 29, 2018
What a wild ride this has been. Last week, Congress and the President approved a spending bill that, miraculously, included a $25 million increase in funding for legal aid. We’re thrilled that members of Congress have recognized the value of legal services for families in need across the country (especially after President Trump proposed eliminating funding for the Legal Services Corporation entirely).
But now we need your help to keep the momentum going!
In March, twenty-eight members of the California House delegation signed onto a letter to voice their support for legal aid. Now it’s important that they hear from you, their constituents, to remind them how important this issue is.
Please take two minutes to call your representative to thank them for signing onto the Dear Colleague letter both this year and last year. We’ve provided the following script for you to use:
“Hi, my name is [your name], and I live at [your address]. I wanted to thank Representative _____ for signing the Dear Colleague letter in support of funding for the Legal Services Corporation. It is vital that the government continue to fund legal services for those who need it most.”
Below you can find a list of all the California representatives who signed the letters. (Not sure who your representative is? Click here to see!)
Adam B. Schiff (D-28th): (202) 225-4176
Alan Lowenthal (D-47th): (202) 225-7924
Ami Bera (D-7th): (202) 225-5716
Anna G. Eshoo (D-18th): (202) 225-8104
Barbara Lee (D-13th): (202) 225-2661
Doris Matsui (D-6th): (202) 225-7163
Jackie Speier (D-14th): (202) 225-3531
Jerry McNerney (D-9th): (202) 225-1947
Jim Costa (D-16th): (202) 225-3341
Jimmy Gomez (D-34th): (202) 225-6235
Jimmy Panetta (D-20th): (202) 225-2861
Juan Vargas (D-51st): (202) 225-8045
Judy Chu (D-27th): (202) 225-5464
Julia Brownley (D-26th): (202) 225-5811
Karen Bass (D-37th): (202) 225-7084
Linda T. Sánchez (D-38th): (202) 225-6676
Mark DeSaulnier (D-11th): (202) 225-2095
Mark Takano (D-41st): (202) 225-2305
Maxine Waters (D-43rd): (202) 225-2201
Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-44th): (202) 225-8220
Norma J. Torres (D-35th): (202) 225-6161
Ro Khanna (D-17th): (202) 225-2631
Salud Carbajal (D-24th): (202) 225-3601
Steve Knight (R-25th): (202) 225-1956
Susan A. Davis (D-53rd): (202) 225-1956
Ted W. Lieu (D-33rd): (202) 225-3976
Tony Cardenas (D-29th): (202) 225-6131
Zoe Lofgren (D-19th): (202) 225-3072
As you know, LSC funding ensures that low-income members of our community can overcome systemic legal barriers to necessities such as housing, food, healthcare, and safety from violence. Furthermore, it helps fulfill our society’s commitment to providing justice to all.
OneJustice staff will be on the ground in Washington D.C. on April 11th and 12th to lobby members of Congress to keep up support for legal services. We need Congress to know that this is an important issue, and that next year’s budget should increase funding for LSC to $528 million – so that every low-income home in our country that needs legal help can get it.
Please call today to make sure our representatives know how important it is that they keep supporting legal aid!
Stay informed and stand up to protect civil legal aid in California. Click here to sign up for Californians for Legal Aid to receive advocacy alerts and policy updates about legal aid!
UPDATE on Omnibus Budget Bill, Friday March 23, 2018, 9:45 a.m.
The Senate approved their motion to concur with the House bill H.R. 1625 on Thursday night, voting 65 to 32. Roll call vote is here. Senators Feinstein and Harris both voted Nay, in part because of the bill’s failure to address immigration relief for Dreamers. Senator Harris shared her thoughts on the bill on Twitter yesterday in this tweet thread. Senator Feinstein tweeted yesterday that she opposed the bill because of its failure to do anything about DACA.
President Trump tweeted at 5 a.m. PST on Friday morning that he is considering vetoing the bill – that message is here. Without a budget bill, the federal government will shutdown at midnight on Friday night.
OneJustice will continue to monitor the situation and keep you posted.
Our original blog post, and more details on the bill and its impact on legal aid funding, follow below.
March 22, 2018
After months of Congressional jockeying, the House of Representatives today passed a $1.3 trillion compromise spending bill for Fiscal Year 2018. In an encouraging sign for the legal aid community, the bill approves a $25 million funding increase for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the federally-controlled nonprofit which provides funding for legal aid organizations across the country.
Additionally, the bill does not weaken or dismantle the Johnson Amendment, as some had feared. This ensures that nonprofit organizations can continue to fulfill their missions to provide social good without being subject to political pressure.
Today’s bill is a far cry from recent budget proposals. President Trump called for the complete elimination of funding for the Legal Services Corporation in the White House budget proposal, released in February. Similarly, the House itself proposed to cut field grants for LSC nearly 25% last fall.
In a change of course, the House bill increases overall funding for the Legal Services Corporation by $25 million (from $385 million to $410 million). Specifically, the bill would increase basic field grants by $24 million, to $376 million – meaning that 96% of the increase would go directly to legal services.
Julia R. Wilson, OneJustice CEO, stated: “We are encouraged by the House’s spending bill. Any cuts to the Legal Services Corporation would have a devastating impact on millions of Americans, including the nearly 200,000 Californians who rely on legal services. The increase in the bill, instead, recognizes the incredibly positive impact that legal aid organizations have on communities all around the country.”
Moreover, this change in the House appropriation demonstrates that Congressional education efforts, a bipartisan “Dear Colleague” letter signed by over 180 members of Congress, and the negotiations to increase overall domestic spending have been successful in demonstrating the value of legal services.
While the signs from the House are encouraging, the process is not over. The bill passed the House 256-167, according to CNN, and now proceeds to the Senate. If passed there, the legislation would then need to be signed by President Trump by midnight on Friday, March 23, in order to avoid another government shutdown.
And while the increases seen in this bill are certainly necessary, more is needed to secure access to civil justice for people in need. The Legal Services Corporation’s own FY 2018 budget request provides a roadmap to achieving this – and, at the end of the day, this is the goal we must aim for.
The full text of the bill is available here. News outlets began publishing their analyses of the bill last night. OneJustice will continue to monitor the legislative process and provide update and alerts.
Stay informed and stand up to protect civil legal aid in California. Click here to sign up for Californians for Legal Aid to receive advocacy alerts and policy updates about legal aid!
March 15, 2018
I’ve got to admit, “impact evaluation” probably isn’t the most tangible job in the world. What is someone like me doing all day, beyond squinting at spreadsheets (although, yes, there’s a bit of that)? The answer is surprisingly simple: my job is to figure out what impact our programs are trying to achieve, and to then gather evidence to evaluate whether or not we’re meeting those goals.
Let me give an example.
OneJustice runs pro bono legal clinics to help people with criminal record clearance. So let’s say we run 10 clinics and serve 180 clients. Ok, that’s great! But is it enough to know that those clients have simply met with a lawyer – or could we learn more by delving deeper? We might start asking: do clients typically leave the clinic with a completed petition, and how many successfully file the petition in court? What happens to clients that we refer to other organizations for more in-depth assistance? What is this whole experience like for our clients, and does it meet their needs and goals?
As you can imagine, these discussions about a program’s goals quickly become complex – and that’s before you start devising methods to assess whether these goals are being achieved.
So why go to all this effort? Again, my answer is fairly simple: because our clients’ legal problems matter deeply and often have high stakes. We owe it to them to critically assess what we are doing and make adjustments where necessary. In the example above, studying our criminal record clearance clinics may help us to identify ways that we can improve our service – for example, by changing the kind of information provided to clients before they attend the clinic, or by adjusting the training offered to pro bono attorneys who volunteer their time.
It’s an exciting time to be doing this work. Scholars in universities and law schools are pushing forward a reinvigorated research agenda on civil justice that seeks to answer difficult questions. How often do people experience civil justice problems? Do factors such as race and class influence how people respond in these situations? What is the nature of our civil justice infrastructure? How do we measure the effectiveness of legal interventions and services? Part of the job of us data folks is ensuring that the learning from these academic studies actually contributes to thinking within legal services organizations.
In addition to this type of academic research, some recent major investments in legal aid programs have included funding to evaluate impacts, such as the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project. Other organizations in the civil justice area, notably the Self-Represented Litigation Network, are using GIS mapping to provide a spatial lens to planning and analysis.
Impact evaluation is just one of many ways in which programs can assess (and reassess) their strategies. While managers and program staff are always observing what’s going on and making improvements to their work, the advantage of impact evaluation is being able to step back and take a more systematic perspective. This can bring into focus patterns that are difficult to spot on a day-to-day basis and incorporate feedback from a wider range of voices, including clients and partner organizations.
OneJustice is at the very beginning of our work in this area. We will be learning from the academics and other legal services organizations who have been pushing this research forward. As we move ahead with our own research and impact evaluation initiatives, we plan on sharing our learning widely with the legal services community. I’m excited to have recently launched the OneJustice Research Newsletter, for example, and we’re looking forward to creating more spaces for others to share their experiences and ideas. So look out for news from us, and we can’t wait to hear from you!
Questions? Want to sign up for the Research Newsletter? You can reach out to Peter with questions and ideas at [email protected].
Watch OneJustice CEO Julia Wilson speak about the civil legal aid system and its connection to American democracy in her talk from TEDxMountainViewHighSchool in January 2018.
On this day of love and friendship, we wanted to say thank you. At a time when love can seem to be in short supply, you have opened your heart to those in need. THANK YOU for spreading the love and bringing life-changing legal aid to Californians!
Love, the OneJustice Team
February 13, 2018
San Francisco, CA — On Monday, February 12, the Trump Administration officially unveiled their proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2019. Once again, OneJustice is deeply disappointed and angered that the budget calls for the complete elimination of the Legal Services Corporation.
The Legal Services Corporation is a government-run nonprofit organization that administers funding for over 100 legal services nonprofits that bring legal aid to every state and county in the country. Federal funding of the Legal Services Corporation (or LSC) provides over $40 million to eleven California nonprofits. These nonprofits assist over 200,000 Californians each year – including low-income seniors, veterans, children, and survivors of domestic violence – who face problems needing a legal solution.
The Administration claims that “elimination [of LSC funding] will encourage nonprofit organizations, businesses, law firms, and religious institutions to develop new models for providing legal aid, such as pro bono work, law school clinics, and innovative technologies.” While exploring alternative delivery models is certainly important, the notion that these models could fill the gap caused by the elimination of LSC funding is not grounded in reality. LSC reports that, even with federal funding, existing legal services are only able to help about half of those who seek help, due to a lack of available resources. This makes the case for more funding – not less.
The Administration also claims that elimination “puts more control in the hands of State and local governments that better understand the needs of their communities.” This, too, is misguided. The organizations that receive LSC funding are already deeply embedded in their communities and work tirelessly to respond to and understand the needs of their clients.
Legal services are vital to ensuring the promise of equal justice under law, and a 2017 study from Voices for Civil Justice shows that a majority of Americans support civil legal aid. Not only does the elimination of LSC funding run counter to popular opinion, it would have a devastating impact on our most vulnerable communities. OneJustice CEO Julia R. Wilson stated, “Eliminating federal funding for legal aid would mean that our country’s bright promise of equal justice for all will ring false for far too many Californians in need.”
But despite this proposal from the Trump Administration – the most recent in a series of actions which have demonstrated their disturbing opposition to civil legal aid – OneJustice remains confident that, like in 2017, bipartisan support in Congress will protect funding for civil legal aid. We strongly support LSC’s request for increased funding – approval of which would help continue the progress that legal aid nonprofits have made towards ensuring equal justice for all.
You can take action now to make your voice heard to protect civil legal aid in California. Click here to sign up for Californians for Legal Aid to receive advocacy alerts and policy updates about legal aid!
February 8, 2018
by Roel Mangiliman, Manager of Innovation and Learning
As “Manager of Innovation and Learning,” I am often asked what I do exactly? What is innovation? What does innovation mean in the context of legal aid? I suspect these questions stem from the possibility that my job title sounds novel, maybe vague. In response to this, I love to talk about cheetos. Specifically Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Hear me out.
Flamin’ Hot Cheetos were invented by a man named Richard Montanez. Born in Mexico, raised outside of Ontario, CA, Richard Montanez worked as a janitor at the Rancho Cucamonga plant of Frito Lay Company. One day Montanez heard a video message from the Frito Lay’s President telling all staff to “act like owners,” to take active investment and dream big in their roles. This left an impression on him. “I looked around and didn’t see a lot of reaction from my co-workers, but for me it was the opportunity to do something different.”
As fate would have it, one of the assembly lines later broke, leaving some of the Cheetos without their iconic bright orange coating. Montanez took some home. Montanez was intrigued by the possibility of adding chili powder to the cheese puffs, inspired from the Mexican food elote. “I see the corn man adding butter, cheese and chili to the corn and thought, what if I add chili to a Cheeto?” He went to his mom’s kitchen and added chili powder.
His family loved it, and told him to share with his plant supervisors. His supervisors loved it, and encouraged him to pitch to higher ups. After speaking with the president’s secretary, Montanez secured an executive meeting two weeks later. In preparation for the pitch, Montanez read a book on business strategies that he borrowed from the public library, and bought his first-ever tie for $3. Montanez even designed his own sample bags for the meeting, and put the spicy Cheetos in them.
The pitch was a hit. Company executives loved the idea and decided to go into production. “Flamin’ Hot Cheetos” was born, and the rest is history: the spicy cheese puff snack went on to become Frito-Lay’s highest selling product. In addition, Montanez is now an executive vice president of Pepsi Co.
The story of how Hot Cheetos were invented is interesting for many reasons.
On a personal level, I am always inspired when people who come from modest means exude creativity and determination when they do not have to; Montanez took a role of relatively low-positional authority and felt determined in the potential of his ideas.
On a professional level, there is a lesson here for my work. There were mechanisms at Frito Lay allowing innovation to emerge. There was encouragement from leadership via the all-staff video. There were co-workers who put creativity in a positive light. There was also a clear way (albeit formalistic) for ideas to bubble up to the top.
According to the nonprofit consulting group, Bridgespan Group, innovation is driven most commonly by such features: diverse, high-functioning staff, empowering leadership, a pathway for new ideas, and resources to execute. Similarly, management guru, Peter Drucker, describes innovation as a disciplined and systematic process of looking for market-shifting opportunities, one that appreciates people’s unique strengths and ideas. Frito Lay deployed these conditions in its own way, and is millions of dollars richer for it.
My job is to help legal aid groups strengthen their own drivers of innovation at a time when innovation — or the ability to adapt to change — is most needed. The legal field has entered an era of transition, clearly. From changing client demographics; reduced government funding for legal aid; fluctuating numbers of law school applications; to the influence of technology on day-to-day life. Legal groups can see these transitions either as organizational threats or opportunities. My job is to help them see the latter.
Having shared the Hot Cheetos story, hopefully my work makes more sense to people. Feel free to contact me if you want to know what this all means in detail, or suggestions on how we might work together.
I am eager to hear what innovation means to you, what it means to fellow OneJustice staff (look out for a related post by Peter James, Senior Manager of Impact Evaluation), and in general in what innovative or ‘out of the box’ ways might OneJustice bring legal help to places where it is most needed.
February 2, 2018
San Francisco, CA – Yesterday, the New York Times reported that the Department of Justice has quietly moved to shut down the Office for Access to Justice. We are deeply disappointed, though not surprised, by this decision, the most recent in a series of actions that has revealed this administration’s contempt for civil legal aid and dedication to maintaining an unequal and unjust status quo.
The Office for Access to Justice was created in 2010, under Attorney General Eric Holder in response to “the access-to-justice crisis in the criminal and civil justice system.” The office’s goals included promoting access and eliminating barriers to justice, ensuring fairness for all participants in the legal and judicial process, and increasing efficiency in the justice system. In addition to its substantive accomplishments, which included launching a “federal interagency roundtable” to demonstrate the benefits of legal aid in various areas of federal policy, the office represented a commitment from the federal government to realizing our shared value of equal justice for all, not just for those who can afford it.
Approximately five million low-income Californians will face legal problems over the next year. Of course, only lawyers call these “legal problems.” For the people involved, they are life problems – which happen to have legal solutions. There’s the grandmother who complains about the broken toilet spewing sewage into her apartment – and the landlord serves her with eviction papers rather than fix it. Or the young woman who has left an abusive relationship and lives in fear of the idea that her abuser might be able to find her at her job. Or the Vietnam veteran living on the street because he cannot access the benefits or medical care he needs.
Unfortunately, most of these people cannot afford to hire an attorney to get the legal help they need. They are shut out of the civil justice system – one of the jewels of American democracy – simply because they cannot afford it.
Legal aid offers hope for filling this gap, and helps ensure a more level playing field in our civil justice system, by providing advice and representation to those who could otherwise not afford it. Legal aid attorneys provide life-changing help to those who need it most – helping the grandmother stay in her home, the young woman live without fear, the veteran safe and secure.
Over the last twelve months, the Trump administration has repeatedly moved to undermine this core American value of civil justice by threatening legal aid programs. The Administration called for the complete elimination of federal funding for civil justice services for low-income Americans. The shuttering of the Office for Access to Justice is further abandonment of our shared value and the constitutional promise of equality under law.
But we know that access to justice is a concept revered by many – on both sides of the aisle and across the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. Americans understand that having a level playing field in court is not a partisan issue. With this in mind, we promise that the OneJustice Network will never stop working to defend the civil justice system.
You can take action now to make your voice heard to protect civil legal aid in California.
Click here to sign up for Californians for Legal Aid to receive advocacy alerts and policy updates about legal aid!