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...

La Raza Centro Legal Attorneys Recognized in 2020 as Leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area Legal Community

At La Raza Centro Legal, our attorneys are legal experts in their fields who frequently present to the legal community, partner agencies,  law students and undergraduate students, and to the clients we serve.  We take pride in our passionate advocacy on behalf of our clients’ civil and human rights.   The expertise our lawyers have acquired while representing clients, have led them to be recognized in northern California as attorney trainers.  They have led Continuing Legal Education (CLE) courses, as well as other types of presentations, in a variety of forums.  Here is a brief review of our attorneys’ recent CLEs, honors, and professional leadership posts:  On October 6, Workers Rights Program attorney Alejandra Cuestas-Jaimes, presented to workers, in conjunction with Excelsior Works, PODER, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and Communities United for Health and Justice, in several Facebook Live Events, on the topic of Workers’ Rights in California.    In September, Immigration Attorney Pilar Eslava and Executive Director Amanda Alvarado Ford presented to an honor sorority of pre-law students at University of San Francisco (USF), in a Virtual Conversation with Immigration Attorneys  On 10/26, Removal Defense immigration attorney Marcos Pacheco presented as part of a USF Student Immigration Law Association Panel on the topic, “Working in Immigration during COVID 19”.  It was moderated by USF Professor Heidi Ho and attorney panelists included SF Public Defender attorney Carla Gomez and Purves & Bogue LLP attorney Dorothy Ma.    On November 18, Marcos Pacheco presented a CLE as part of a panel presentation, through PLI with other expert attorneys, on the topic: Updates to Representing Unaccompanied Children in California.    On October 29, agency director Amanda Alvarado Ford presented to Latinx Studies Professor Michael De Anda Muniz, Ph.D.’s  undergraduate SFSU Latinx Studies course entitled Organizing, Civil Rights, Social Justice, and Community Organizations, and provided...

Message from the Executive Director | November 24, 2020

Note For Readers: During the COVID-19 pandemic, La Raza Centro Legal has made key changes to our methods of legal services delivery, to address our clients’ evolving needs. We are open to the public every Tuesday. Each legal department is in office one full day per week, to serve our community in person. The remaining 4 days of the week, we work remotely. One of our supervising attorneys provides immigration in-person consults every Thursday for 4-6 hours at the Alabama Street Latino Task Force Hub in San Francisco’s Mission District. We are the only Bay Area legal aid agency currently offering in-person weekly consults and we are pleased to serve the community during this challenging time.       Some weeks have a theme that arises naturally through the course of the days.  This week, the idea that kept recurring is resiliency.  I’ve been inspired by photos in the San Francisco Chronicle of families in Santa Rosa who are rebuilding their homes after they perished in the 2017 Tubbs fire.  In addition, I’ve seen photos of children in the Bay Area who are taking music and dance classes in the arts, as part of social pods with their peers.  These pictures have brought me joy. Seeing children taking group drum lessons and dancing with friends was a relief to see.  I know I’m not alone in worrying about the pandemic’s effect on children.  Seeing them having fun made me feel as though children will focus on enjoying life, regardless of the obstacles presented before them.   One of the best examples that I have seen of resiliency is embodied in one of our...