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...

Client Story: Escaping a Financial Predatory Hardship

Note: All client story names have been changed for privacy and safety reasons. Fernando learned in August of 2019 that he was being unjustly sued for the nonpayment of a predatory loan. Unable to afford a private attorney, Fernando turned to La Raza Centro Legal (LRCL) for their quality legal support and spanish-speaking services – all of which are provided at no cost for San Francisco Latino immigrant communities. Fernando’s story started in 2015 when he found himself in a challenging financial bind where he needed money quickly. Given the time sensitivity, he decided to apply for a loan online and within hours Fernando was able to get the money he needed. Unfortunately, the loan came at a high cost with an interest rate of 138%. It was impossible for Fernando to make the required monthly payments. To make matters even worse, Fernando’s loan was sold to one third-party debt collection agency and then to another. Almost four years after he took out the original loan, Fernando was sued. Upon receiving and reviewing Fernando’s case, LRCL’s senior law attorney recognized the predatory nature of the circumstance and took on the case immediately. With the help of LRCL’s experienced Senior Law Program staff attorney, Fernando was able to have the lawsuit completely dismissed. Fernando has been relieved of not only the unjust lawsuit, but in working with LRCL, he was relieved of much of the emotional and financial burden associated with fighting the financial predatory hardship. Unfortunately, stories of immigrant and disadvantaged communities that fall victim to predatory financial loans are rampant in the United States. LRCL is dedicated to representing...

Mixed Status Family Pursuing the American Dream

A “mixed-status family” is a family whose members include different citizenship or immigration status.  This story is about a mixed-status family, the Rojas-Roldans, who La Raza Centro Legal is assisting in their immigration matters.  The Rojas-Roldan family is comprised of a U.S. citizen child, a Deferred Action recipient adult child, and undocumented parents who are DAPA eligible.  They are the image of what immigrant families look like nowadays.  Furthermore, they are an example of people coming to this country to have a chance to pursue the “American Dream.” As is common with immigrant families, the conditions in one’s home country are not safe and these conditions often force families to flee and find safety in another country.  Whether it was being surrounded by criminal activity, gangs, or drug trafficking, Monica knew it was not a place to raise her family or become productive citizens.  Rather, it had become a place where you were lucky if you could escape harm or, even worse, death. As a result, Monica made the difficult decision to immigrate to the United States from Mexico with her 9 year old son Kevin in 2004.   As with all new arrivals, it was a struggle to live in the United States undocumented.  Not only is it difficult to find housing, but it’s hard to find employment and a school to send your child. At first they lived in Oakland, California, but quickly found a place to stay in San Francisco and made their home in the Tenderloin District.  Soon, Monica and her husband found work and Kevin was in school.  In March 2011, the Rojas-Roldan family grew –...

Together, We Can!

We are committed to using the power of the law to address injustice and solve problems affecting those who lack equal access to the legal system……. Read More “Together, We...

Know Your Rights–Eviction Under “Owner Move In”

Desalojo de inquilinos para que el propietario se mude a la vivienda (Spanish Version) Evicting a Tenant Under “Owner Move In” English Version Evicting a Tenant Under “Owner Move In” There are 16 just causes to evict a tenant in San Francisco. Among them, the “owner move in” or “OMI” is a well-known cause for eviction in San Francisco nowadays. It is defined as an eviction where an owner of a unit who does not own another property in the City seeks to recover possession for himself or relative to move in, “without ulterior motive and with honest intent.” Owners may evict for a family member such as a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling or the owner’s spouse or the spouse of such relations. The term “spouse” includes domestic partners. However, owners who evict for family members to move in must already live in the building or be moving into the building at the same time as the relative. In buildings of two or more units, there are several conditions that give a tenant protected status so that he/she cannot be evicted for either the owner or the owner’s relative to move in. If you are 60 years old or older and have lived in the unit for more than 10 years, you are protected.  If you are disabled under the Social Security Disability rules—which consider a person disabled if (a) she/he cannot perform the kind of work that he/she did before, (b) Social Security decides that he/she cannot be adjusted to other work because of his/her medical condition, and (c) her/his disability has lasted or is expected to...

A Dream Come True

Candelario Melendez came to the United States as a political asylee from El Salvador, Central America.  Candelario was born and grew up in the Canton of San Francisco, department of San Vicente, El Salvador.  “Don Cande” as his friends and colleagues lovingly call him has always made it his mission to help people and be of service to the community.  Don Cande took pride in being a community organizer and still does this work today. As the civil war erupted in El Salvador in 1979-1980, Candelario became more involved with his community.  Don Cande worked to help protect his canton from the guerillas and the military that were trying to recruit people to fight for their side.  But after having his house shot, although no one was hurt, he and his family decided to move to a nearby town of Verapaz.  They all believed the town was bigger and safer than his small canton.  But the civil war hostilities increased and Don Cande found himself organizing again to protect the community.  Because of his work he began receiving death threats. In 1986 Don Cande received a threat from the guerillas on his doorstep.  The note stated he was an enemy of the revolution and would be punished by the people unless he stopped working as a community organizer.   Don Cande realized he had to be very careful because his life and that of his family was at risk.  His brother had already been murdered by guerillas when defending his town as a member of a civil defense group.  But this did not stop Don Cande from being of service...