Summer 2021: Message from the Executive Director

Leer en español  We at La Raza Centro Legal (LRCL) have been serving the immigrant community from our Mission District San Francisco offices and in a combination of in-office/work-from-home modes since the pandemic began last year. It has afforded us many months to reflect upon changes we wish to see in the world – environmental changes, changes in our racial structures that allow people of color to live free from harm or persecution, and so many other needed changes to move toward a more just society. In my case, I have thought extensively about how those holding public office and our current presidential administration can take action now, to formulate a comprehensive immigration plan that is humane, just, and in line with our nation’s history of welcoming immigrants into our diverse nation. While it would take much more than a short article to do the subject justice, I would like to share my thoughts on the matter. One main area is the need to return to a focus on reunifying families. In 1965 when our nation’s federal immigration laws were overhauled by Congress, the new laws were grounded in a common thread of prioritizing the unification of families who had been living apart for years. The guiding principle behind this legislation was to recognize the humanity, dignity, and respect that humans feel when we are able to live with the family members we love. A compassionate immigration system recognizes this human need to live alongside our immediate family members. By doing so, fair immigration laws create a logical and fair system to prioritize families’ needs to live together. Many...

Coming Full Circle: Interview with Karla Cruz, LRCL Attorney

Leer en español What sparked your career interest in immigrant rights? KC: My interest initially was sparked when I was a student at University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC). As a major in Politics and Latino Studies, I was considering a few different paths for my career. I potentially wanted to go to law school, become a Latinx professor, or perhaps earn my Doctorate Degree. Karla Cruz, Esq. is a Staff Attorney at La Raza Centro Legal. Karla has a long-standing commitment to serving the immigrant community of the Bay Area. Karla is proud to be a daughter of Salvadoran immigrants. Ultimately, I decided to pursue a career that would allow me to create a big impact on the world and on my local community. This idea became much more clear to me when I attended a labor conference while I was at UCSC. At the conference there was a powerful presentation delivered by a Latina attorney, Rocio, from LRCL and I was blown away by the work they do in the Bay Area Latinx immigrant community. I immediately wanted to learn more about the work of La Raza and how I could play a role.  How did this kickstart your journey with LRCL? KC: That presentation was just the starting point to my career journey. It got me very interested and wanting to learn more about the legal world. After that conference, I looked into seeing if they needed any summer volunteers. I had just started studying for the LSAT and was open to any type of work that was needed. Luckily, LRCL was looking for bilingual law...

Workers’ Right Interview with LRCL Attorney, Alejandra Cuestas-Jaimes

La Raza Centro Legal provides ongoing legal aid for increasingly marginalized community members in the midst of a global pandemic. Learn more about a recent win in our Workers’ Rights department. In what ways have you seen COVID-19 affect the community that La Raza Centro Legal (LRCL) serves?  Alejandra Cuestas-Jaimes: As you can imagine, unfortunately, we in the Workers’ Rights Program (WRP), have witnessed a never-before-seen number of employment terminations in our community. The majority of the population we serve are also undocumented workers. They have been placed in an inconceivably vulnerable position given that they do not qualify for unemployment insurance, even though the majority contribute to the EDD. As a result, when many of these workers lost their jobs, they were left with nothing: no income replacement, no stimulus checks, no health insurance. Nothing. In 2020, San Francisco created an ordinance prohibiting Employer discrimination based on COVID status. How do you see this affecting our local immigrant community?  AC: Unfortunately, the ordinance you are referring to expired. But, it will be replaced by a permanent ordinance with the same goal that will take effect on March 7, 2021.  This ordinance (let us call it “the COVID Anti-Retaliation Ordinance”) will have a positive effect not only on the immigrant community, but also on the general San Francisco worker population. Because workers will know that if they are sick or have been exposed to COVID-19, their employers will not be able to retaliate against them due to their need to take time off to recover or isolate. This ordinance will also protect the rest of San Francisco’s population because...

Message From the Executive Director, February 2021

Dear Friends,  Almost a year has passed since our lives changed so dramatically last March. Though there have been so many difficult aspects of social distancing and complex health issues during the pandemic, we have adapted this past year, to try to feel happier day to day.  During a visit with a young adult client this week, I learned that two of her older siblings had recently become engaged or gotten married, and they had moved out of their parents’ home.  The client shared that she also planned to move out of the family home.  Her new steady employment in a job she enjoyed offered her the chance to live independently, and she was excited about starting a new chapter in her life.   During our meeting to review the status of her immigration case, the client mentioned some of her goals for the next 12 months.  I made the mental note that she was quite a bit more upbeat than when I had last seen her about 4 months ago.  I was so pleased that she was happier, that I did my best to match her energy.  By the end of our meeting, we were sharing stories about the shelter cats we had rescued in the last few months, and making a plan for our next appointment.  It felt just like we were two friends who were catching up after several months apart.  The rest of the day, my own mood was uplifted, just like it would have been had I met with someone from my personal circle of friends.   Learning about my client’s updates and recent achievements helped...

LRCL Statement on January 6 Insurrection at the Capitol

La Raza Centro Legal stands against acts of violence and actions which harm others or which result in the loss of human life. The events of January 6 at our nation’s Capitol left us feeling a sense of tremendous shock and absolute grief, at both the incitement of violence and the subsequent acts of mayhem that resulted in five lives lost. We cannot remain silent upon viewing the loss of lives and the terrorist acts which occurred. We condemn the words and actions of our nation’s president and advisors who, just prior to last week’s lawlessness, incited a mob to act violently. We also denounce the individuals who committed the crimes immediately following as a direct result of the call to arms. While the country needs to better understand the motivations of the mob that invaded the Capitol, the evidence of racism and hatred of immigrants is heartbreaking. We mourn for the lives lost. Our hearts are heavy for the trauma suffered by those present that day at the Capitol, and we hope for a healing of their minds and souls. The United States, with the Capitol as its symbol, has been a beacon of human rights and democracy throughout the world. With the Capitol transformed into a scene of mob violence intended to intimidate legislators, it is easy to feel adrift. We face many challenges as we navigate through a lengthy pandemic and long delays for access to vaccines for even our most vulnerable community members. However, on the same day as the tragedy last week, our elected officials in Congress resumed their duties and conducted the final...