Behind the glittering signs of Palm Springs, Rosa finds a stark reality

Rosa and OneJustice staff on the Justice Bus

Rosa Maria Calvaho (on the right) on the Justice Bus to Indio with OneJustice staffers Monica Mar (back) and Cynthia Luna (left). All three have participated in the UCLA Law Fellows program.

Justice Bus volunteer Rosa Cavalho finds the situation in Indio a far cry from the golf courses and manicured gardens.

But she also finds smiles and hugs from the clients who are assisted by the Justice Bus clinic.

Our final National Volunteer Month guest blogger, Rosa Maria Cavalho, received her undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley and has worked as a legal advocate and labor union organizer for the last 6 years in both rural and urban parts of Northern and Southern California. Her legal and academic interests include Housing Law, Labor and Employment, and Worker Rights Activism. She will enter law school in 2014. Rosa is thankful to the UCLA Law Fellows Program, which put her in contact with OneJustice.

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Arid, parched mountains, glittering signs reading Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, spacious swaths of golf courses flanking hotels with manicured garden fronts and the Coachella Music Festival. These are all images easily conjured into the mind by the mere utterance of “Coachella Valley” to anyone even slightly familiar with Southern California. And though they are all images that do define this region, they only provide a silhouette to the full image that outside visitors and residents alike may not have perceived.

The city of Indio, California in the Coachella Valley lends shade and color to the silhouette. From slumlord housing and aggressive debt collections agents to workplace violations and obtaining child support, residents deal with a variety of legal challenges. In addition, they are further magnified in this desert valley due to the lack of legal services and made greater to those individuals without vehicles, where towns stand in great distance from each other and public transportation is sporadic at its best.

As an advocate for public interest work with prior experience in legal outreach in both rural and urban environments of Northern California, I was both curious and excited to volunteer with the Justice Bus Project trip to Indio. I had never actually gone out to a rural community to offer legal services. I had simply lived in a rural community and assisted in a legal office. The thought of being part of a dynamic project – justice on wheels – was precisely what prompted my curiosity and excitement.

Rosa with a Justice Bus Client in Indio

Rosa with a relieved Justice Bus client at the consumer law clinic in Indio

However, it was only really during the drive I vividly gained a sense of what challenges rural communities face in accessing legal resources. By witnessing the huge expanses of sparsely populated rural areas when approaching Indio, I began to understand how much the dearth of legal services that existed here stood in contrast to the array of services accessible in the distant city of urban Los Angeles. For in an urban environment, if you are unable to access legal services in one part of the city, a hop on the metro or 30 minute drive is often sufficient to put one in touch with another legal clinic. Here, though, “hopping” on a metro train was not a possibility and 30 minutes was often how long it took some residents to get to a major supermarket.

The OneJustice experience was great because it allowed me to gain a first hand perspective over the course of two days of the significance of traveling into isolated communities and even in a small way, contributing to the lives of residents there. Going into this far flung community with lawyers and law students, being quickly oriented with the nature of legal issues faced and then delving right into interviewing clients, working with supervising attorneys to assess legal issues and provide advice or referrals, I felt privileged.

I was part of a team of people who were facilitating access to legal rights.  I shared in and met so many incredible passionate advocates through this experience. And I came away with the feeling that OneJustice allowed me to fill in the silhouette of understanding I had about the Coachella Valley, painting it with the smiles of a client and her little girl, the gratitude of an elderly couple, and a hug of appreciation from a women being threatened by consumer debt lenders.  Thank you!

Happy National Volunteers Month to Rosa and all the Justice Bus volunteers!  You all are the heart and soul of this project!

Donate today to bring more legal help to places like Indio.You can also bring life-changing legal services to those in need.  Donate now through our secure online system.

The hope that now embodied her was beautiful

Volunteers bring hope to those suffering from legal problems throughout our state.

Jennifer shares her story of volunteering to bring immigration assistance to her community in Humboldt.

Jennifer Alejo is a student at Humboldt State University and a Justice Bus Project volunteer

Jennifer Alejo is a student at Humboldt State University and a Justice Bus Project volunteer

Jennifer Alejo was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Currently she is attending Humboldt State University pursuing a double major in Political Science and International Studies with a minor in Communications. Jennifer enjoys advocating for immigration rights and works every day to dismantle systems of oppression.  She is also a co-founder of Finding Resources and Empowerment through Education (FREE), the on-the-ground partner for a recent Justice Bus Trip to Humboldt County. When she’s not busy with school, work, and organizing Jennifer enjoys spending time with family and friends. We are honored that Jennifer allowed us to interview her for this guest blog post, one of our series during National Volunteer Month.

Jennifer, why did you volunteer with the Justice Bus trip to bring services to Humboldt County?  

I love volunteering to be able to help those who are not represented. While I currently live in Humboldt County, I grew up in Los Angeles County, and my family is still there. Living in Humboldt County has been really different not only because of the environment but because unlike Los Angeles, Humboldt County has no resources for underrepresented communities. My community in Humboldt really needs access to legal assistance,  particularly for immigration services now that there is the new immigration relief program for youth who came to the US as children (“DACA” or “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.”) However, for people living in Humboldt, the closest immigration attorney is 300 miles away. People already have trouble paying for a lawyer, now imagine paying for traveling and lodging on top of that. It was impossible for my community members to fix their immigration status in this situation.

So, during my last visit to Los Angeles over the holidays, I made it my mission to look for resources for my community in Humboldt. I called different non-profits, sent out emails, looked for networks on facebook – basically I did anything possible to see if I could find at least one organization to help bring immigration services into Humboldt County. The problem was that the organizations that I could find,  don’t have enough funding to bring their services all the way to Humboldt. I refused to let this discourage me, and I am really glad I didn’t because someone mentioned that I should look into a project called Justice Bus.

Students from University School of Law traveled over 300 miles to Humboldt County, where they partners with Jennifer and FREE to deliver two days of free legal clinics.

Students from University School of Law traveled with the Justice Bus Project over 300 miles to Humboldt, where they partnered with Jennifer and FREE to deliver two days of free legal clinics.

The name itself already was interesting, and so I quickly contacted OneJustice and told them about Humboldt County’s situation. I remember being really worried about the money. I explained that I was a student and that I had no money, but that I would be more than willing to look for donors, I was relieved when Lauren, a Legal Fellow at OneJustice, told me that no money was needed.

The type of work that the Justice Bus Project provides for isolated rural areas is so important in so many different levels. It reminds people that there are amazing individuals out there who still care about them.  It not only acknowledges them as humans, but acknowledges their struggle. We live in a time where humanity is not always seen and knowing that there is a group of future attorneys and attorneys out there who truly aspire to be advocates for human rights is empowering and inspirational. As I worked closely with the OneJustice staff to plan the Justice Bus trip,  it reminded me that there are people who are willing to use their knowledge to help those in need and expect nothing in return. It inspired me to maybe even pursue a law degree and maybe one day be part of the Justice Bus and be the one helping families.

What motivated you personally to volunteer during the clinics in Humboldt?

People often ask me why I do the work I do, and I ask why not? It is my job as a citizen of this world to help those who are silenced, and as someone who holds privileges myself, it is important to be able to advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves. When I see people who have been silenced, I think of my family and the barriers that they have overcome thanks to non-profit organizations in Los Angeles. I might not be able to eliminate the systems of oppression that my community members go through, but I can provide the tools they need to empower themselves and those around them.

What was the experience like during the days of the clinic?

USF Humboldt Justice Bus

Law student volunteers from University of San Francisco School of Law join OneJustice staff on the Justice Bus trip.

Busy! We were all running around everywhere trying to get organized. There were people waiting at the hall for their appointments, we were waiting for our Spanish interpreters to arrive, and just as everything would calm down, then  more people came for appointments and more interpreters were needed.  My phone didn’t stop ringing, as folks who needed directions were calling me, folks who were curious about the confidentiality level wanted to know more about the Justice Bus, and more.

Overall, the experience was fantastic! I don’t think there are words that could express how happy I was when people were coming in and out after receiving legal advice. A lot of my community members live in fear that their undocumented status will come to light with terrible consequences. Being able to see them willing to talk to attorneys was the first step many of them took to come out as undocumented.  I was really proud of all my community members who took the risk to discuss their status.

Was there one particularly meaningful moment for you over the two days?

There were so many meaningful moments, but in particular there was one of a youth. She came to find me after she was done with her appointment, and she told me how happy she was that she was able to get advice on her case.  She told me that suddenly she felt really strong and that the future wasn’t as cloudy as she thought. That’s exactly the feeling I wanted her to feel. I wanted her to be able to know that as a scholar she would be able to succeed in her education. What made the moment perfect was the big smile in her face, and the hope I could see in her eyes that she would have the proper documentation to be able to apply for a job. There was something about that moment that gave me so much strength to continue the work that I am doing. It wasn’t the thank you, nor the big hug, but the hope I could feel now embodied her—it was beautiful.

What would you say to lawyers and law students living in more urban areas who are considering volunteering for a Justice Bus trip

Please please volunteer – you don’t know how much this means to misrepresented communities who don’t have someone to speak out for them or at least explain their case in a legal sense. Families feel so empowered after receiving this advice.  It gives them strength to continue with their life regardless of what barriers are thrown at them.  And even though at times some of the advice given is not positive, it is still important to them to know what their status is and what to expect from the future. To any lawyers or law students who are thinking about volunteering, please now that there are so many people who are need your help – and you can use your skills and knowledge to be the change in someone’s life! I can assure you that after volunteering with the Justice Bus  Project you will want to do it again, because the work is so important and so rewarding.  Thank you!

Jennifer, from all of us at OneJustice, thank YOU for volunteering and for creating real change in the world.

Thank you to Jennifer and all the amazing volunteers from FREE and USF School of Law!

Thank you to Jennifer and all the amazing volunteers from FREE and USF School of Law!


 

You are there because . . .

You are justice heroes.  Happy National Volunteers Month!

You show up – when and where you are needed – and give so generously of your time, energy, skills and expertise.

Without you, so many Californians would continue to suffer needlessly from solvable legal problems.  You bring life-changing legal help to those in need.  You connect with children with disabilities who need special education services, low-income veterans, isolated seniors facing serious medical problems, families at risk of losing their housing, and youth who are eligible for new immigration relief.  You serve and empower these communities – and we are so honored to partner with you in these efforts!

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Indeed, you are the very heart of the OneJustice network.   Thank you for sharing the reasons WHY you show up – again and again, all over the the state.  Enjoy this slideshow of YOUR testimonials about why you do this work, which we put together as part of National Volunteer Month.  Thank you for everything you do!

600 miles, bald eagles and elk? Debra dives into an unusual classroom through pro bono

Debra is a law student and mom – and a proud participant in the OneJustice pro bono network

She shares her first-hand reflections here as part of our series during National Volunteer Month.

DPinzonHamilton2x2 copy

Debra is a law student at USF School of Law, works full-time at Verizon, is the mom of a toddler, and is also a proud participant in OneJustice’s Justice Bus and Law Student Pro Bono Projects.

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By Debra Pinzon-Hamilton

When I began law school in August 2011, I wanted to eventually use my law degree to promote social justice, so I was excited to learn that University of San Francisco would give me an opportunity to start immediately through USF’s partnership with OneJustice.  I took a couple days to consider making the Pro Bono pledge, worried about how to fit the volunteer hours in my full-time work and part-time school schedule without sacrificing more time with my infant daughter.  I decided to do it, and making the Pro Bono pledge has been the best decision I made since I first decided to go to law school.

I have taken advantage of a wealth of pro bono opportunities during my time in law school.  My experiences started with the APILO/AABA Civil Justice Clinic, where I was paired with an attorney to serve as the translator for a Spanish-speaking client.  We were able to get someone on track toward resolving a complex immigration problem, exactly what I want to do after law school.  I have also volunteered for the San Francisco Bar Association’s Legal Advice and Referral Clinic (LARC), assisting with social security, tax, disability issues, family, criminal, and immigration law.

Given my interest in immigration law, I have volunteered twice with the East Bay Naturalization Collaborative, a day-long clinic to assist clients with citizenship applications.  This year my husband (who is an LLM student at Golden Gate University – another OneJustice partner school) and I volunteered together, while my mother-in-law watched our daughter.  I also attended a couple of immigration hearings on behalf of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.  That was one of the most educational experiences to date.  I saw how immigration judges, government attorneys, court interpreters, and detainees interact; I saw how very few detainees have legal representation; I witnessed that we treat immigrants as if they were prisoners; and I saw how intricately criminal law is interwoven with immigration law.

Yurok Veteran clients_2013

These veterans received legal assistance and advice at the inaugural Justice Bus clinics for the Yurok Tribe in January of this year.

This school year when my husband started the LLM program, I knew we both would have even less time.  We take turns studying and spending time with our daughter, so I knew that at the beginning of the semester, I would have more time to fit in this type of invaluable experience.  I waffled a bit because I had not yet spent a night away from my now 2-year old daughter, but I decided to join the first-ever Justice Bus trip to Humboldt and Del Norte counties to bring legal assistance to veterans who were members of the Yurok Tribe.

We spent two days with the Yurok Tribe.  The Swords to Plowshares attorneys did a great job of teaching us the substantive law in terms of benefits for veterans and encouraged us to put our legal skills to the task.  After I conducted some initial research on a question that came up, the attorney checked over my work – and I realized that one of the most important skills from law school is learning how to find answers, not simply knowing them.  The OneJustice attorneys were also outstanding at relating everything back to real world law practice.  A OneJustice attorney had me interview the tribal council chief.  He then related it to deposing witnesses and how best to phrase questions.

In the end, we didn’t help as many veterans on the trip as we had hoped, but having fewer clients gave us an opportunity to spend more time with each one.  It also gave a member of the hosting tribe time to take a couple of us to see a tribal ceremonial site and to teach us about their way of life, the differences in their legal system, and about the legal and social challenges faced by Native Americans and by people living in rural America.

USF students Yurok Tribal Center

Thank you to Debra and the other USF law students who traveled over 600 miles round trip to bring Justice Bus clinics to veterans in Del Norte and Humboldt counties!

In two short days, I learned some new substantive law; I was introduced to an entirely new culture; I made more connections for life-after-school; and I also learned that I can survive one night without kissing my toddler goodnight, and it was absolutely worth it.  I even saw a bald eagle flying over a river during my tour, and we all saw elk during our drive north.  That is some classroom!

I also work with other organizations, but OneJustice got me started on pro bono work and has provided the bulk of my experiences.  I feel very lucky to attend a law school with such a strong commitment to social justice, and OneJustice is a large part of that.

Social justice aside, there is no replacement for the type of experience you get from pro bono work.  The legal community is small, so if for no other reason than to make future connections, I highly recommend getting out there and doing everything you can.  No task is too menial – make copies, fill out forms, send faxes, translate if you can – it will relate to your job, it feels good, and people will remember that you enthusiastically helped.  If you keep going back, each time you will have more opportunities to carry greater responsibility.  It will make you a better lawyer, regardless of what you practice.

A heartfelt Volunteer Month THANK YOU from everyone in the OneJustice network to Debra and all our amazing volunteers!

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Debra Pinzon-Hamilton is a second year student at University of San Francisco School of Law in the part-time division. She also works full-time as a Senior Consultant in Pricing and Contract Management at Verizon.  After completing her Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering at Louisiana State University, she moved to San Francisco to work in her field.  She spent two years traveling and volunteering in Latin America, which helped inspire her to return to law school.  She aspires to pursue social justice after law school.

Geoff has a commitment to service . . . first his country and now veterans in need

Happy National Volunteer Month!

As you know, volunteers are the heart and soul of the OneJustice network! 

Geoff Cleveland Volunteer

Geoff Cleveland offers today’s guest blog post as part of National Volunteer Month.

Volunteers travel hundreds of miles with the Justice Bus Project to bring life-changing legal assistance to Californians in isolated areas of the state.  The 100+ nonprofits we support also work with thousands of volunteers who commit their time, energy, and expertise to serving low-income Californians. Without a doubt, volunteers are the backbone of our state’s safety net for those facing legal barriers to basic life necessities.

At OneJustice, we celebrate our volunteers all the time, but National Volunteer Month gives us an extra special opportunity to recognize their work. During this month we will be featuring a series of guest blog posts with first-hand experiences from (you guessed it!) – some of our amazing volunteers!

We are particularly honored to lead off with a blog post by Geoffrey Cleveland, a first year student at Southwestern Law School.  Prior to attending law school he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of California, Riverside.  After his undergraduate studies he enlisted in the United States Army where he served in the 75th Ranger Regiment.   Just last month he joined the OneJustice’s inaugural Justice Bus trip to bring legal assistance to veterans in the Inland Empire.  Thank you Geoff!

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It was not long ago that I was in Afghanistan applying for law school and waiting for the elusive letters of acceptance.

Less than a month later, I was sitting in a classroom in Los Angeles learning about a “hairy hand” and its relevance to modern contract law.

Thank you to all the amazing volunteers from Southwestern Law School.

Geoff Cleveland and seven other law students from Southwestern Law School boarded the Justice Bus to deliver free legal help to veterans in the Inland Empire.

To say that it was a bit of a transition would be an understatement.  Although I miss my friends, I am grateful for this opportunity to start a new career in a new home and meet new wonderful people.  What I am most grateful for is that I have always had an amazing group of friends and family to support me through the difficult times.  I am truly a fortunate person.

Yet, for some the transition to civilian life is much more difficult.  Some are asked to end their service because of injuries sustained during combat or training events and then are left without the proper help.  Some end their service and build new lives and are never aware of the benefits they are entitled to.   For some the stress and experience of combat leaves lingering effects that make transitioning to civilian life near to impossible.  I knew even while I was waiting for those letters in Afghanistan that I wanted to somehow help my fellow veterans who were left in these difficult times.

When Cynthia Luna (OneJustice Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow) came to my law school to discuss the Justice Bus trip to San Bernardino to set up a free legal clinic for veterans, I jumped at the chance.  I was excited to have the opportunity to help fellow veterans as well as gain effective legal experience.

When we arrived at the American Legion hall, where we would set up the legal clinic, I was nervous.  Besides mock interviews in class, I had never actually conducted a real client interview.  I kept picturing the horrible scenarios of unruly clients that I had heard about and asked myself if I was prepared.  I ran through the check list of to-do’s in my head over and over, almost like the check list I would run through before an Airborne jump in the Army.

Geoff and Ryan volunteered to help this couple at the Justice Bus clinic serving veterans in the Inland Empire.

It was smiles all around after Geoff and Ryan helped this couple at the Justice Bus clinic serving veterans in the Inland Empire.

Just like a jump, before I knew it I was out the door and I was sitting face to face with an elderly couple, my first real life clients!  Unlike the nightmare scenarios I had dredging through my head, these two were amazing.  My friend Ryan and I listened to their incredible story and helped them by working with an attorney at the clinic to provide them with the information they needed.

The couple were hoping to set up a meeting with an attorney, and we fortunate enough to be able to set up that meeting and have the majority of their needed paperwork filled out, another first for me.  Their kindness and appreciation blew me away, and I was not only relieved that I had survived my first interview, but appreciative that I had met such wonderful people.

Overall, that Friday was one of the most rewarding and enjoyable days I have had since moving to Los Angeles a few months ago.  I would recommend the experience of a Justice Bus trip to any law student or attorney for not just the educational aspect but also the relief of working for deserving and truly appreciative people.

Want to provide more legal services for veterans in need?  Give online today to our Veterans Legal Aid Fund!

Want to provide more legal services for veterans in need? Give online today to our Veterans Legal Aid Fund!

From everyone at OneJustice, a most heart-felt “Thank You!” to all of the amazing volunteers from Southwestern Law School!


 

Leeor is supporting future justice heroes!

Removing barriers to justice takes a network. . . of law students and law schools!

OneJustice supports a network of 100+ nonprofit legal organizations, law firms, law schools, and businesses.  Each year this network provides life-saving legal help to over 275,000 Californians facing legal barriers to basic life necessities and core civil rights.  You – like everyone in our network – are an essential part of the solution to the fact that millions of our neighbors suffer needlessly from solvable legal problems.

In honor of the work that our network does, each month we feature an interview with a different participant in the network. This month we interviewed Leeor Neta, Director for Public Interest Programs at Golden Gate University School of Law.

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Leeor, you are involved in supporting and expanding law students’ interest in public services, pro bono and public interest work. How do you approach that work, and how does your approach also inform your work with OneJustice? Leeor Neta Headshot_March2013

While I have numerous responsibilities at Golden Gate, I am thankful that I am not “expanding student interest in public services.”  Every student at Golden Gate—whether they want to pursue a public interest career or prefer the private sector—cares about public service.

That is not my experience of most law students. Few of my law school classmates were committed to pursuing a public interest career and the Career Services Office offered little direction to us. We had to work harder than other students to find opportunities. After graduation, I worked at the Office of the State Public Defender, where I assisted in the direct appeal of death penalty convictions on behalf of indigent clients. Later, I founded the City of East Palo Alto’s first juvenile diversion program and served for two years as its Executive Director.

I came to Golden Gate because I wanted to have a stake in mentoring the next generation of public interest leaders. Golden Gate’s partnership with OneJustice has been invaluable. OneJustice helps me take our very passionate students and connect them with projects and programs, about which they might not otherwise hear. And we do that at the very beginning of their law school tenure. As a result, students more quickly identify what motivates them and are more likely to stay the course to a public interest career.

Please tell us a little bit about how Golden Gate University School of Law approaches public interest, public service, and pro bono.

Golden Gate is consistently ranked one of the best public interest law schools in the country. Golden Gate owes this reputation to several factors. Golden Gate’s curriculum—including many first-year offerings—extends to every area of public interest law. Golden Gate supports a formidable externship program (ranked third in the nation in a 2010 study by Professor James Backman of Brigham Young University). Most Golden Gate students participate in this program and obtain hands-on public interest law-related experience. Many of Golden Gate’s faculty are renowned public interest leaders. Likewise, Golden Gate’s clinics and centers all focus on public interest issues. Golden Gate is home to many student organizations that create a community deeply committed to public service. Golden Gate devotes an enormous amount of money to grants and scholarships for its students.

GGU Gilroy Trip April_2012

A Golden Gate law student voluteers at a Path to Citizenship Justice Bus clinic in Gilroy.

Golden Gate also has an abiding to commitment to pro bono and making pro bono opportunities easily available. In fact, Golden Gate was one of the first schools to forge a partnership with OneJustice.  Annually, OneJustice counsels hundreds of our law students.  Most of these students receive OneJustice’s newsletter and actively participate in the projects promoted by OneJustice.  I cannot imagine Golden Gate keeping its commitment to its public interest students without its partnership with OneJustice.

What have you particularly enjoyed about working with OneJustice?

I really enjoy working with the OneJustice staff.  Everyone—including Michael Winn, Linda Kim, Thieu Do, and of course, Julia Wilson—is not only hard working and committed, but also gracious and accommodating.  This semester, a speaker for a public interest event cancelled on me at the last minute.  I called Michael and asked him to fill in.  He immediately agreed and ended up being a huge hit with the audience.  At every event, OneJustice staff are arriving early, staying late, building relationships with employers and students.  They are champions for social justice, and I am proud to call them my colleagues.  [Editor’s note from the OneJustice team: Yes, we are all blushing now. Thank you Leeor! The feeling is completely mutual!]

Golden Gate law students volunteer with the Justice Bus Project to bring free legal help to Californians living in isolated areas of the state.

Golden Gate law students volunteer with the Justice Bus Project to bring free legal help to Californians living in isolated areas of the state.

Which project with OneJustice is most exciting to you for 2013?

I personally enjoy coordinating the Northern California Public Interest / Public Sector Day.  OneJustice does an outstanding job overseeing this event with its many component parts.  I also love greeting nearly all of my public interest colleagues at the same time.

But the project that I think our students have most enjoyed is the Justice Bus trips.  Being based in the San Francisco area, it’s not hard for our students to forget that there are many people facing dire legal problems in rural and more far-flung parts of the state.  Joining a Justice Bus trip gives them the chance to shift their immediate world view and learn about problems and opportunities in places like Watsonville, Marysville, and others.

Thank you to Leeor and everyone at Golden Gate University of School of Law – including the many law students who volunteer their time to bring life-changing legal help to those in need.  We are so honored and proud to have you in the OneJustice network!

Because justice extends beyond my zip code

How can we stretch to reach youth in rural areas?

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – or DACA – offers a promise of work authorization, a driver’s license, immigration relief, and economic self-sufficiency. 

But only if we can get legal assistance to the youth who are eligible.

So, we learned recently that youth living in Humboldt County have nowhere to turn for legal advice about whether they are eligible and how to apply for the new federal immigration relief program called DACA (short for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).  There is no nonprofit legal organization that provides legal assistance in immigration in their county.  There is nowhere for them to receive free legal help to understand the program and whether they should apply – even if they were able to travel as far away as Santa Rosa.  And access to the DACA program is a very big deal – it offers access to work authorization, a driver’s license — basically the opportunity to have economic self-sufficiency and help provide for their families.  But without the legal assistance to understand the program and apply – the promise of the DACA program simply rings hollow.

So how can we stretch – as a state, as a profession, simply as people who care – to reach these kids?

Earlier this month, a team of law students from University of San Francisco School of Law traveled over 600 miles round trip on the Justice Bus – with a wonderful immigration attorney from La Raza Centro Legal – to bring legal help to these amazing youth.  Running two clinics over two days, the law students provided 29 youth with immigration and DACA assistance. Their testimonials above tell their personal stories about why they traveled all that way to use their skills to give back.  We are so lucky to have such committed volunteers!

And it was heart-breaking to leave, knowing that unless the Justice Bus is able to return these kids and others like them will simply continue to go without any access to legal advice and assistance.   We are so grateful to everyone who has donated to the Justice Bus Project and our Children’s Legal Aid Fund that makes these trips possible.  We are 100% committed to raising the funds necessary to return to Humboldt again.  We welcome you to join our efforts – as a donor, volunteer, or both!

Recently OneJustice also had the terrific experience of partnering with Legal Services for Children on the video below that engaged DREAMERs and youth leaders in San Francisco in explaining the DACA program to other teenagers.  The video is being used as part of a public education and community awareness-raising campaign.  We were honored to be involved in supporting Legal Service for Children’s work in this area – and we plan to use the video in reaching out to the more rural and isolated counties, as well.

Want more information about DACA?  Check out the resources at Legal Services of Children’s page here.

Want to help support Justice Bus Trips doing DACA clinics?  It’s easy to give online here.

Have suggestions and ideas about other ways our network can support these youth?   Let us know!  We welcome your ideas – comment here or on our facebook page!

We were one of the lucky ones

Paying It Forward: Creating Economic Opportunity for Immigrants

By Hanh Vo, Principal Contracts Attorney at LinkedIn

Hanh Vo, LinkedIn

Hanh Vo is Principal Contracts Attorney at LinkedIn and a proud pro bono volunteer.

Imagine if you were transported to a foreign land, penniless, not knowing the native language, surrounded by foreigners who you’ve only seen in fatigues.  With just one day’s warning, my mother packed up our meager belongings, my brothers and I who were 7, 3, and 2 years old at the time, and left behind her home and her third child.  My parents struggled with the idea of leaving all they had, but they knew that the option of staying was not an option.   My father, who was a helicopter pilot for the South Vietnamese Air Force, would be quarantined in a concentration camp if they had stayed.

Saigon fell to the Communists on April 30, 1975.  On April 29, 1975, my father flew us out of Saigon while under fire from the Communists.  Somehow, we made it in one piece to Thailand.  From there, the Americans flew us to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.

My parents didn’t know how they were going to build their lives in this foreign country, but they did know that they had hope.  Hope for a better future in the land of opportunity.

We were one of the lucky ones.  Volunteers, complete strangers from Ramer, Tennessee came to us.  Strangers who have never set eyes on Asians before opened up their hearts and gave us a chance — a chance to make a better life for ourselves in their back yard.

LinkedIn Cooley Justice Bus Team

There were smiles all around after this youth received the legal assistance he needed from LinkedIn’s General Counsel Erika Rottenberg and Cooley’s Liz Stameshkin

With support and encouragement from my mother, my father enrolled into college at the age of 32.  He received his Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Oklahoma at the age of 36.  His education opened doors for all of us.  My brothers are Chemical Engineers both with MBA’s; my third brother eventually made it to the States in 1990 and doubled majored in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.  I was fortunate to go to law school, hoping that one day I could help others.

When our General Counsel, Erika Rottenberg, asked for volunteers to head up LinkedIn’s pro bono legal program, I jumped at the chance.  This was my opportunity to use my legal education to serve the under-served, to give back, and to pay it forward.

LinkedIn Cooley Trip Group

A team of 23 volunteers from LinkedIn’s legal department and Cooley LLP traveled with the Justice Bus Project to Napa County to bring life-changing legal help to 28 immigrant youth.

On an overcast day in March, LinkedIn joined Cooley LLP and OneJustice on the Justice Bus and to work with the Legal Aid of Napa Valley in Napa, California.  Our mission was to complete the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) forms so that youth immigrants could have an opportunity to become legally employed in the United States.  We met 28 applicants, completed 28 applications, and created 28 opportunities for legal employment.

Just like the volunteers I met in 1975 who took it upon themselves to help an immigrant family start their lives over again in the United States, 23 volunteers took it upon themselves to help youth immigrants create economic opportunity for themselves and their families in the United States.  I believe that we come to this great nation for economic opportunity and if we are fortunate enough, we may be able to help others become more productive and successful in their careers.

23 complete strangers opened up their hearts to 28 immigrants.  At the end of the day, it was not the immigrants who truly benefited from our volunteer service, it was us.

(This post is also available at LinkedIn’s blog here.)

Veterans supporting veterans

Veterans come together to bring life-changing legal help to veterans in need

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Last Friday, the Justice Bus Project traveled from downtown Los Angeles with eight volunteers from Southwestern Law School out to the Inland Empire to set up a free legal clinic for veterans. 

Done in partnership with Inland Counties Legal Services and Inland Empire Veterans Stand Down, the clinic brought veterans together to support their fellow veterans.  Two of the law student volunteers were veterans, as were three staff from Inland County Legal Services and two staff from Inland Empire Veterans Stand Down.  The clinic took place at the local American Legion Post, and so local veterans showed up to help staff the clinic.  And we are super proud that Monica Mar, our very own Senior Staff Attorney in charge of our SoCal office, is a veteran.

This Justice Bus trip brought life-changing legal assistance to 16 veterans, many of whom were facing multiple legal problems.  Thank you to all of the amazing volunteers and local partner organizations for this inspiring collaboration.   It is easy to give online.

The trip was made possible by support from the California Bar Foundation and many, many individual donors who support OneJustice’s Veterans Legal Aid Fund – including many donations made in honor of veterans and service members.  Check out our online Wall of Honor for the names of those in whose honor and memory this Justice Bus trip took place.  Want to be a part of future Justice Bus trips serving veterans?  It is easy to give online – and we will be so moved to add the names of veterans and service members in your life to the Wall of Honor.

You all inspire us every day.  Thank you for your support!

Are you a poet? And do you know it?

Are you a secret creative genius?

Do you have a favorite justice-related poem that keeps you going in tough times?

Does our name count as a one-word poem?

Does our name count as a one-word poem?

Please share those words of inspiration with the rest of the OneJustice network!  The March “social media for social justice” contest asks for your justice-related poems!

Everyone who submits a poem that somehow relates to justice, love, equality, activism – or whatever justice means to YOU – before March 8 will be entered to win a super cool OneJustice water bottle.  And the justice connection can be loose – remember, this is all about poetry, so of course its open to YOUR interpretation!

Extra points for submitting a poem that you wrote.  Extra EXTRA points for posting a video of you reading it aloud.  (Yep, we’re throwing down the gauntlet now!  Are you fired up yet?)  Sadly, we’re not that creative, but we do have a favorite justice poem to share to start things off – “To Be of Use” by Marge Piercy.  Check it out below.

You can post your poem(s) to any of our social media sites: facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, pinterest, or in the comments to this post.  Happy poem posting!

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To Be of Use

by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.