OneJustice Blog

Bring life-changing legal help to Californians in need.

Category Archives: Immigration Assistance

She hears their calls…

Welcome to our new Pro Bono Justice Program Associate, Lyla Bugara!

We’re super excited to introduce you to the newest member of our team! Lyla will be working with the Pro Bono Justice Program, which fosters volunteerism in the legal profession and builds innovative, private/nonprofit collaborations that deliver free legal services to vulnerable communities. So to get to know her better, we sat down with Lyla this week and asked her a few questions!

Please join us in welcoming her to the OneJustice network!


Photo: Lyla Bugara, the new Pro Bono Justice Program Associate in the San Francisco office.

Meet Lyla Bugara, the new Pro Bono Justice Program Associate in the San Francisco office.

Thank you for joining us today, Lyla! Tell us what drew you to the work of OneJustice?

I was extremely excited by the opportunity to work at OneJustice because of the organization’s commitment to systemic and transformative change. OneJustice is a unique nonprofit in that it takes a bird’s-eye view of the legal aid system in California and works to develop innovative solutions to the many problems that plague our state’s justice system. Millions of people live their lives every day without access to legal resources just because of where they live, how much money they make, where they were born, what language they speak, the color of their skin, and their gender identity. It’s wildly unjust, and the time for change was yesterday! The good news is that we are living in historic times. Thousands of Black and brown people across the country are rising up to say “enough!” to systemic racism and oppression. I hear their calls. And OneJustice’s work plays such an important part in the fight for equal justice, economic justice, and racial justice. I am honored to work here.

We’re honored to have you on the team! What will you be doing in your role at OneJustice?

As the Pro Bono Justice Program Associate, I will be responsible for managing the Justice Bus Project in Northern California and clinic coordination for the Rural Justice Collaborative. Both of these programs provide essential legal services to people living in rural areas who might otherwise never be served. I hope to ensure these projects best serve the needs of oppressed and marginalized Californians, while transforming the legal aid system in California.

We look forward to hearing about this work in the near future! What were you up to before coming to OneJustice? 

In 2011, I worked at the Correctional Association of New York advocating for an end to the incarceration of domestic violence survivors. From 2012-2016, I worked at ColorOfChange, the country’s largest online civil rights organization, as Criminal Justice Campaign Manager where I managed campaigns relating to ending for-profit prisons and anti-Black police violence.

It sounds like really rewarding work! And final question, tell us something about you that is not work-related!

I was born and raised Macrobiotic — a Japanese diet based on the power of whole foods to heal and nourish the body. From ages 10-13, I went to “Macro Camp” every summer. 🙂

Thank you so much for your time, Lyla! We’re happy to welcome you to the OneJustice team!

It’s never too late for a fresh start…

Over 100 individuals receive free legal help in Los Angeles!

IMAGE: Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles and the John M. Langston Bar Association volunteer attorneys at the Fresh Start Legal Clinic in Los Angeles.

Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles and the John M. Langston Bar Association volunteer attorneys at the Fresh Start Legal Clinic in Los Angeles.

On Saturday, March 19, 2016, OneJustice, in partnership with Jenesse Center Legal Advisory CommitteeAlternate Public Defender, Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, Californians for Safety and JusticeICE out of LAIMPACT LA, the John M. Langston Bar Association, Legal Aid Foundation of Los AngelesLos Angeles Public DefenderNeighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, A New Way of Life Reentry ProjectOne LA I.A.F., and other Los Angeles-based community organizations helped give Angelenos a Fresh Start.

At the newly created Fresh Start Legal Clinic, South LA residents completed applications for the Traffic Ticket Amnesty program, which allows individuals with unpaid fines on traffic and non-traffic infraction tickets to get a reduction of up to 80% of the amount owed to the court or collections agency. Clients also filled out applications for Proposition 47, a program that changes low-level crimes from potential felonies to misdemeanors.

Having a suspended driver’s license or felony criminal record can be a barrier to employment that keeps individuals and families trapped in an endless cycle of poverty. Without the ability to work and earn a living, families are forced to make difficult decisions about housing, transportation, and other life necessities. Traffic Ticket Amnesty and Proposition 47 programs can help end this cycle. Both programs are crucial to bettering individuals’ lives. Participants in these time-limited programs are able to improve their employment prospects, regain driver’s licenses, remove immigration barriers, and reduce old debts all through a brief application and short post-clinic process.

IMAGE: Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles and the John M. Langston Bar Association volunteer attorneys hard at work at the Fresh Start Legal Clinic in Los Angeles.

Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles and the John M. Langston Bar Association volunteer attorneys hard at work at the Fresh Start Legal Clinic in Los Angeles.

At the clinic, about 70 volunteers helped over 100 South Los Angeles community members with Proposition 47 reclassification and Traffic Ticket Amnesty. Volunteer attorneys helped clients with the support of community organizations. Thanks to the Fresh Start Legal Clinic, South LA residents face fewer barriers to success in their futures.

“[The clinic was] extremely helpful and it helps people to achieve what they always wanted to do,” said one client.

Thank you to our wonderful partners, supporters, and volunteers for making this clinic a reality!

For more information about Proposition 47, please visit http://myprop47.org/.

To learn more about Traffic Ticket Amnesty, please visit http://www.backontheroadca.org/.

Did you hear about what happened last Thursday?

The OneJustice Network brought justice where it’s needed!

[Photo: Julia with Honorees: Kathryn Fritz, Claire Solot, and Martin Tannenbaum]

OneJustice CEO Julia Wilson and honorees, Kathryn Fritz, Claire Solot and Martin Tannenbaum, at the 2015 Opening Doors to Justice event.

Last Thursday night, over 60 corporate and individual sponsors and over 300 OneJustice supporters came together for this year’s Opening Doors to Justice event to honor Kathryn Fritz, Claire Solot, and Martin Tannenbaum for their leadership in advancing access to justice for Californians.

Generous individuals and sponsors, like you, raised a total of $273,000 to fund the Immigration Pro Bono Response Network. This project will provide regional training, support, and coordination to deploy private sector volunteers in the Bay Area and Los Angeles to bring vital legal help to those eligible for immigration relief. In addition, your support will launch a pilot project serving three high need rural counties — Merced, Stanislaus, and San Joaquin — with local clinics and virtual connections to urban volunteers.  We promise to bring immigration relief to 450 Californians over the next year -thanks to you!

Photo: Betsy White, ‎Legal Counsel, Apple & OneJustice Advisory Board member at the 2015 Opening Doors to Justice event.

Betsy White, ‎Legal Counsel at Apple & OneJustice Advisory Board member, at the 2015 Opening Doors to Justice event.

We are so honored to be surrounded by passionate and amazing individuals, corporations, and organizations that bring life-changing legal help to those in need. We look forward to seeing you next year!

Thank you for bringing justice where it’s needed most.

The OneJustice team

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P.S. And in case you were unable to attend, check out our thank you videos in honor of Kathryn, Claire and Martin below!

2015 Opening Doors to Justice: Kathryn Fritz from OneJustice on Vimeo.

2015 Opening Doors to Justice: Claire Solot & Martin Tannenbaum from OneJustice on Vimeo.

Making Joe Biden proud

Creating Impact in Los Angeles

A new lawyer’s reflection on launching an ambitious new pro bono project

What’s a Leslie Knope-type to do after law school graduation? For me, as my 3L year at Loyola Law School began, I was hoping to land a fellowship and start a public interest career in Los Angeles.

Luckily for me, some wonderful people over at the Association of Pro Bono Counsel were looking for someone to work on a brand-new project working with domestic violence survivors in Los Angeles at the same time.  Through fate, and a dash of speedy emailing, I was able to get an interview for this new position, armed with little more information than I’ve spelled out here.  And I think they mentioned something about Joe Biden.  After a few hours of incessant email refreshing; a quick application period; and a bit more waiting, I found out I’d received a Loyola Fellowship to coordinate the Los Angeles Project of a nationwide program, IMPACT.

LA City Attorney Mike Feuer

LA City Attorney Mike Feuer opens yesterday’s IMPACT LA launch clinic.

From there, it was a whirlwind of bar studies and life changes. A few months later, I found myself in the Los Angeles office of OneJustice, hoping I was the only one who thought I had no idea what I was doing. My friends all gave me time-tested 20-something advice, “fake it ’til you make it.” After just a few months of working with the fabulous OneJustice team and the great folks from APBCo, I know I’m incredibly lucky to be here and that I have a remarkable opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives.

My role as the Loyola Law School Post Graduate Public Interest Law Fellow is to coordinate the IMPACT LA Project. IMPACT is a nationwide project that was formed in response to a meeting between ABPCo members and Vice President Joe Biden.  The APBCo IMPACT (“Involving More Pro Bono Attorneys in Our Communities Together”) Project is taking root in eight urban centers, including Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. The objective of the IMPACT Project is to design innovative and sustainable new solutions that will increase access to free legal services by utilizing pro bono volunteers.

Here in LA, our project is a monthly clinic that provides free wrap-around legal services to survivors of domestic violence in South LA at the Jenesse Center, a leading domestic violence shelter and support center. At the clinics, volunteer attorneys from Los Angeles APBCo-member law firms provide free legal assistance in the areas of housing, immigration, and public benefits. And just yesterday, with the help of the LA City Attorney, Mike Feuer, we kicked off 2014 decisively.

Photo of IMPACT LA volunteer attorneys.

Volunteer attorneys from Latham & Watkins and Morrison & Foerster staffed the IMPACT LA launch clinic yesterday working with supervising attorneys from Public Counsel and Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County.

At our official IMPACT LA launch clinic yesterday, eight volunteer attorneys from Morrison & Foerster and Latham & Watkins gathered at the Jenesse Center to give generously of their time and energy.  During the clinic, the volunteers met with and advised six women, working closely with two supervising legal services attorneys from Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County and Public Counsel.

And this was just the beginning.  We will now be running monthly clinics at the Jenesse Center, staffed by a rotation of pro bono attorneys from law firms and supervised by a partnership of local legal services nonprofits.

For me, the most impressive thing about last Friday’s clinic was the outpouring of support from volunteers for survivors of domestic violence.  It’s an issue that can be difficult to talk about for many.  However, my experience with the clinic has been that all of our volunteers are compassionate people who enjoy the opportunity to provide these services to women in the city that we all share.

And most importantly, the women who receive the services are able to better understand their situations and take control of their own lives.  And that is what makes my job so worthwhile. Well, that and being able to imagine that somewhere out there, Vice President Biden is proud of me.

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Kelsey Williams sitting at her desk.Kelsey Williams is a Loyola Law School Post-Graduate Public Interest Law Fellow at OneJustice and runs IMPACT LA in Southern California. During law school, Kelsey spent one summer working in the Students’ Rights Project at the ACLU of Southern California and her second summer working with foster youth at Public Counsel. Kelsey is loving running IMPACT LA, learning more about the needs of domestic violence survivors, and devising ways for IMPACT LA to meet them.  If your law firm or corporate legal department is interested in volunteering for an IMPACT LA clinic, please email Kelsey at kwilliams@one-justice.org.

Because lawyers and law students can be heroes

Serving those who have served our country.

And those who seek refuge on our shores.

What an amazing pro bono celebration this week has been.  What a great opportunity to recognize the work of the legal services nonprofits, law firms, corporations, and law schools – and thousands of individuals – who give back to their communities.  That you all!

We have you have enjoyed our daily doses of the power of pro bono – and that it has inspired you to get involved and volunteer in your community.  Please enjoy our final three videos that document the power of pro bono to serve two particular populations – veterans and immigrants who are seeking refuge in our country.

Happy Celebrate Pro Bono Week and Campaign for Justice Month!

Serving those who served our country

The power of law students doing pro bono

Thank you all for celebrating Pro Bono Week with us!

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!


 

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.

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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.)

The gift of justice for immigrant youth

There are over 300,000 children and youth in California eligible to apply for a new immigration relief program.

And not enough attorneys to help them – particularly in rural and isolated areas of the state.

You can change this!  The Justice Bus Project is building coalitions of nonprofit legal organizations and law firms, law schools, and corporations to respond.

In the short video below, Laura Lopez, a youth in Napa County who graduated with honors from UC Santa Cruz, tells her story and explains why the recent Justice Bus trip with Legal Aid of Napa Valley  was so important.

You can make all the difference for someone like Laura – give the gift of justice to a youth this holiday seasondonate now to the Children’s Legal Aid Fund or the Justice Bus Project.  Donate before the end of the year, and your gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar by a group of generous donors.

Click on the image above to watch our short video about Laura Lopez, an immigrant youth in Napa County.

Click on the image above to watch our short video about Laura Lopez, an immigrant youth in Napa County.

Many thanks to Fenwick & West attorneys for volunteering to bring justice to the youth in Napa Valley!

Many thanks also to the California Bar Foundation and the van Loben Sels/RembeRock Foundation for their generous support for the Justice Bus Project!  We are thrilled to report that both Foundations just announced that they will provide generous grants in 2013 for even more Justice Bus Trips to bring life-changing legal help to immigrant youth living in rural and isolated areas of the state.  Thank you!

Justice: the perfect gift.  Donate now to bring justice to over 270,000 Californians like Maya in 2013.

Justice: the perfect gift. Donate now to bring justice to over 270,000 Californians like Maya in 2013.

Fenwick & West celebrates pro bono week by boarding the Justice Bus!

National Pro Bono Week (October 21-27) is coming to a close, but today is just the beginning for many immigrant youth in Napa County, who will be one step closer to adjusting their immigration status thanks to today’s Justice Bus Trip with attorneys from Fenwick & West and Legal Aid of Napa Valley.

These youth are known as DREAMERS, after the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act (pending in Congress).  These kids entered the United States as children under the age of 16, have lived here for at least five years, and are either in school, have graduated from high school, earned a GED, or served in the military.  For many of them, the United States is the only country they have ever known as their home.

This past June, the Obama administration issued an order that allows these youth to apply for what is known as “deferred action for childhood arrivals” (a formal reprieve from deportation), and when they are approved, they able to get work permits and help support their families.

California has by far the largest number of youth eligible for this new program – almost 300,000 kids.  As you can probably imagine, the phones of California’s nonprofit legal organizations started ringing off the hook as soon as the new program was announced – and the nonprofits in the OneJustice network are swamped with requests for help.

Fenwick attorney volunteers travel to Napa County today

Today, during National Pro Bono Week, Fenwick & West attorneys are boarding the Justice Bus and committing their time and energy to helping to meet the need in Napa County, in partnership with the Legal Aid of Napa Valley.  The volunteer attorneys will be providing essential legal assistance and advice to the youth and completing the legal forms required to apply for the program.

This wonderful group of law students from McGeorge School of Law traveled to Napa County on the Justice Bus to help the youth prepare for Fenwick’s clinic today.

The Fenwick attorneys are the second phase in this particular  Justice Bus series.  Just two weeks ago,  a group of students from the McGeorge School of Law did their own Justice Bus trip to Napa  to screen youth for the program and help the kids begin to gather all the necessary documentation for the clinic staffed by Fenwick attorneys today.

Thank you to Fenwick & West, McGeorge School of Law, and Legal Aid of Napa Valley for being there for these youth in this pivotal moment in their lives.  What an amazing way to close national Pro Bono Week!

For more information about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, check out this great resource page from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC).

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