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Tag Archives: Rural Immigrant Connect

Bridging the justice gap with technology

Rural Immigrant Connect launches its first pilot case.

Over the past few years, the number of human beings fleeing horrifying violence in parts of Central America and Mexico for the U.S. has escalated dramatically. In 2014, the number of women crossing the U.S. border multiplied by more than three times compared to 2013, while the number of separated or unaccompanied children reached over 66,000 in 2014, up from an average of 6,775 children in the years 2003-2011. This stream of refugees fleeing Central America and Mexico has not ceased, and many arrive in California on a daily basis.

IMAGE: Image explaining to clients how Rural Immigrant Connect works.

Image explaining to clients how Rural Immigrant Connect works.

Unfortunately, arriving in the U.S. is only half the battle — not only do immigrants face constant worries about family left behind, but many are placed into deportation proceedings in immigration court, where even very young children are not guaranteed a lawyer. It’s even worse for immigrants who reside in California’s Central Valley, a region with few legal organizations offering services within its vast geographic expanse.

The need for innovative models to connect pro bono attorneys with immigrant clients in rural California has never been greater. Through a generous Equal Justice Works fellowship sponsored by the law firm Fenwick & West LLP, OneJustice recently launched the project Rural Immigrant Connect, putting technology to creative use by connecting pro bono attorneys in the Bay Area with immigrant clients in need in the Central Valley.

Rural Immigrant Connect addresses the dearth of legal representation for low-income immigrants in the Central Valley by tapping the resources of the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, home to law firms and corporations that can provide an incredible amount of resources to serve Central Valley clients. To bridge the geographic gap, the project uses videoconferencing for the majority of communication between pro bono attorneys and clients, following an initial in-person meeting. In addition, OneJustice places laptops at community organizations in the Central Valley to provide clients with easy access and in-person technology support.

Thanks to the wonderful work of Fenwick & West LLP attorneys Vikram Iyengar and Rajendra Panwar with support from Partner Lynn Pasahow and the mentorship of Director and Immigration Attorney Emily Abraham of Social Justice Collaborative, Rural Immigrant Connect took on its first pilot case this spring — leading the way for the marriage of pro bono and technology to bridge the justice gap for immigrant communities throughout the Central Valley.

UPDATED_Rural Immigrant Connect Pro Bono Attorneys_061316_SMH

Rural Immigrant Connect is more than simply a means through which we can connect more Central American and Mexican refugees in the Central Valley with vital pro bono legal representation. This innovative project also provides us with a means of gathering data regarding the efficacy of videoconferencing to demonstrate a model that can be replicable throughout the U.S. A project like this can bridge the often daunting urban-rural divide separating many rural low-income communities from access to affordable legal services.

Rural Immigrant Connect is at its core a collaborative project that has only been made possible through incredible partnerships with legal services organizations Social Justice Collaborative and Centro Legal de la Raza; community organizations El Concilio and Centro La Familia; the law firm Fenwick & West LLP; and national organization Equal Justice Works. Thanks to the dedication of pro bono volunteers like Vikram and Rajendra, partnerships like those mentioned above, and the collaboration of the OneJustice network, we can work together to bring help, hope, and justice to individuals escaping the violence that continues to plague our neighbors in parts of Mexico and in regions of Central America.

IMAGE: Image explaining to pro bono attorneys how Rural Immigrant Connect works.

Image explaining to pro bono attorneys how Rural Immigrant Connect works.

To view the full infographic presented above, please click here.


Renee_Grid PicRenée Schomp is an Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by Fenwick & West LLP and Staff Attorney at OneJustice. She currently spearheads the Rural Immigrant Connect project in California’s Central Valley.

Meet our summer law clerks! Part 2

OneJustice welcomes four new summer law clerks in its San Francisco office.

Welcome back! This week, we are welcoming four law clerks to the OneJustice network. Each year, summer law clerks join the team to assist with current projects and apply the skills they’ve learned in law school. Today, we’re excited to introduce you to the other two summer law clerks, Kyle and Chris! Please join us in welcoming them!


IMAGE: Summer Law Clerk Kyle Edgerton will be helping with the new Rural Immigrant Connect project.

Summer Law Clerk Kyle Edgerton will be helping with the new Rural Immigrant Connect project.

Welcome, Kyle! Tell us, what drew you to the work of OneJustice and what will you be responsible for at the organization? 

One assumption underlying our adversarial legal system is that both parties make it through the courthouse doors. However, millions of people in California and beyond are prevented from vindicating their rights because of systemic barriers unrelated to the merits of their claims. The challenges of “access to justice” are diverse and dynamic, but OneJustice’s work with a large coalition of legal aid programs positions it to confront those challenges in innovative ways, to develop and workshop solutions, and to disseminate its models so all communities can thrive.

I know the unparalleled satisfaction – and hair-pulling frustration – of direct-service work. Partnering with OneJustice exposes me to a new dimension of legal aid and challenges me to reinvent myself as an agent of social change operating at a different layer of the problem.

I will be part of a team continuing to test and iterate OneJustice’s new Rural Immigrant Connect project, which uses virtual technology to bridge the gap between urban-based pro bono attorneys and the Central Valley youth who need immigration representation. The project is off to an exciting start, and we are working to expand its reach and improve its function.

Thinking big-picture, I want to work with all segments of the legal profession to create – and fulfill – opportunities for pro bono service. A disturbingly small share of California attorneys are currently pitching in to shoulder the heavy burden of legal aid needs, and I want to learn more about the barriers and bottlenecks that create this shortfall so I can help to remove them.

Can’t wait to hear about your upcoming work! What did you do before coming to OneJustice? 

I just finished my first year at UC Davis School of Law (King Hall). Before starting law school, I was the Director of the Immigration Assistance Program at Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada for almost five years; That work was engaging, meaningful, and provided a great mix of direct service and some systemic work and advocacy. My journey toward becoming an attorney grew out of my growing recognition of how great the scope of unmet legal need is, and I am excited to mark OneJustice as a waypoint along that path.

We’re excited to be working with you too! And finally, tell us something quirky about you. 

My son, Asher, will turn 2 in September 2016. I think I’ll lose major Dad Points if I don’t list him as my number-one hobby. Other recent hobbies include homebrewing, a weekly short story club, and trying to build up a bicycle from scratch. In college, I took the Flag Football course for eight semesters in a row. (Seriously.)

IMAGE: Summer Law Clerk Chris Gordon will be assisting with the Justice Bus Project.

Summer Law Clerk Chris Gordon will be assisting with the Justice Bus Project.

And now, let’s welcome our last law clerk, Chris! Tell us, what drew you to OneJustice and what will you be doing here during the summer?

I was drawn to OneJustice’s focus on helping Californians in need by connecting rural communities with legal resources. Programs like the Justice Bus Project‘s expungement and housing clinics allow clients and their families to substantially improve their lives. Additionally, OneJustice’s commitment to forming lasting relationships with local organizations and communities is a major reason why I am excited to join this organization.

This summer, I will be working with Pro Bono Justice and the Justice Bus team to provide free legal services to underserved Californians; Groups such as California’s rural Asian Pacific Islander communities who are often not aware of beneficial legal programs or legal steps they may take. I hope to increase the availability of free legal resources within these communities.

Thank you for working on the Justice Bus Project — we look forward to hearing about your work! What did you do before coming to OneJustice?

I finished my first year of law school at the University of Michigan in May. Before attending law school, I volunteered as a teacher for homeless youth in Manila and worked as an educational consultant with students in Beijing.

Sounds like a great abroad experience! Last question: what is something quirky about you?

I attended a Cantonese elementary school here in San Francisco.

Thank you for joining us, Kyle & Chris — and welcome to the OneJustice network! We’re excited to have you all here this summer! 

P.S. Missed our other two law clerks, Grant and Erika? Click here to meet them!

Transforming the civil legal aid system…

Through pro bono innovation

Here, at OneJustice, we believe that pro bono work brings help, hope, and justice to thousands of Californians each year. Pro bono work holds the power to transform the civil legal aid system and create equal access to legal help across the state. It inspires smiles and makes all the difference for an individual in need – heck tons of individuals! So today, we’d like to take a moment to update you on the tremendous pro bono innovations the network made last year plus give you a sneak peek at what’s in store for this year!

IMAGE: Volunteer attorney holding sign that says, "Working with DAPA applicants pursuing higher education brings help, hope, and justice."2015 Pro Bono Innovations with Impact:

Developed a Replicable, Highly-Efficient Model for Pro Bono Engagement in Immigration Assistance: OneJustice developed a toolkit that empowers organizations throughout the state to develop their own pro bono-driven clinics to help immigrants apply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program. The toolkit was created based on data collected by OneJustice at clinics around the state and features workshop models that OneJustice itself vetted through its Justice Bus and Bay Area Rural Justice Collaborative projects.

Transformed the Way Nonprofits Train Pro Bono Attorneys: OneJustice helped initiate the Pro Bono Training Institute, a project that develops highly-interactive online trainings that empower attorneys around the state to help low-income communities. By using a collaborative model in which multiple legal aid organizations around the state help create each training, OneJustice, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, and Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County reduced the burden on individual organizations to create pro bono trainings and created a more efficient community response to the training needs of pro bono attorneys. In just the second half of 2015, the Training Institute created trainings in more than 18 subject areas!

Innovated Assistance to Rural Veterans with Criminal Records: Working with local partners around the state, OneJustice identified a particular need among rural veterans for assistance with criminal record expungements. Responding to that need, OneJustice organized 9 veterans-focused Justice Bus trips to rural communities and helped 23 individuals petition for record clearances, paving the way to expanded access to employment opportunities and other benefits.

2016 Goals for Innovating Pro Bono:IMAGE: Volunteer attorney holding sign that says, "TIME makes all the difference."

Make Bay Area Pro Bono Attorneys Available to Rural Immigrants Using Technology: OneJustice will commence a new project that connects immigrants in Stanislaus, San Joaquin, and Merced counties with pro bono attorneys in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Using technology, the project aims to expand the level of assistance provided to rural immigrants beyond the limited-scope assistance they are most typically offered. The project, named Rural Immigrant Connect, will provide 15 rural immigrants with ongoing representation from Bay Area-based pro bono attorneys.

Implement a Highly-Effective Pro Bono “Hub” System for LA County’s Nationalization Efforts: OneJustice will serve as the pro bono coordinating entity for an ambitious, collaborative effort in Los Angeles County to assist immigrants in applying for U.S. citizenship. To ensure efficient and effective utilization of pro bono attorneys, OneJustice will develop an innovative, uniform pro bono training and will train and assist partners organize pro bono-staffed clinics.

CROPPED Edited_VeteransDevelop and Test a Sustainable Model to Bring Consistent Legal Help to Rural Veterans: In an effort to move beyond the model of providing ad hoc clinical assistance to veterans in rural counties, OneJustice will test a multi-clinic response to the needs of veterans in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in partnership with Pepperdine University School of Law. Drawing from legal needs assessments, OneJustice will fashion and execute at least five clinics staffed by Pepperdine Law students that assist more than 75 veterans in need of legal assistance.

Tons of great work ahead! Keep tuned for more awesome updates!

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