Message From the Executive Director

Message from the Executive Director, April 7, 2020

I hope you are well and that during this time of shelter-in-place, you and your families and housemates have adjusted and developed a new sense of normalcy.  I’m writing today’s message from my home office, a little corner of my upstairs closet, with my desk sitting under a sunny window.  The sounds of a tree trimming crew and a mechanical wood chipper are just outside my window, and I wonder,  “Is tree trimming essential work?”  Though I’m not tasked with making that decision for the crew, I’m grateful that the workers will be paid and can support their families through their labors.

In January this year, I started a gratitude practice that ended up being very fortuitous given the current health pandemic.  I try to start or end each day by creating a list of three things I am grateful for.  They can be either tangible or intangible, and exist in the present, past or future.  I have also done quite a bit of reading about how to live life as a “thank you”, and this has informed my daily list.  Experts on gratitude have conducted studies that show that when you are in the midst of feeling grateful, it is virtually impossible to simultaneously feel angry, frustrated, or overwhelmed.  This may explain why people who feel grateful more often, tend to be overall happier in their daily lives.

As to the recent entries in my gratitude journal, yesterday’s list included 1) Springtime decorations created by neighborhood children, displayed in the windows of their homes; 2) texts from friends I hadn’t heard from in awhile; and 3) the good health of my parents, my mother-in-law, and other cherished elders.

When I reflect on the work of La Raza Centro Legal, my gratitude is enormous.  I just completed one year since I returned to LRCL after a two year absence, during which I  worked as an immigration removal defense attorney at other non-profit legal aid agencies.  I am grateful to those other agencies for teaching me new strategies for approaching client work, development, and program management.

Jan 2019 – Amanda presented to UC Davis Law students about gender based harm suffered by immigrants

Upon my return to LRCL, a year ago, I saw things differently than before.  The task at hand was clearer, and the path forward was also very much in focus.

Today, at LRCL, we are proud that our coordinating attorneys – those who lead each of our legal departments – are dedicated to excellence in their own legal work, as well as mentoring and developing the talents of the attorneys and paralegals on their teams.  Our staff attorneys are skilled legal professionals who contantly refine their skills, such as when they engage in a compassionate declaration-taking session with a client, do a lengthy legal intake, or work long hours drafting a legal argument.   The end result of this work, at the conclusion of a client’s case, can literally change the client’s life for the better.

Our paralegals listen to clients with empathy and respect, and their high-quality finished work product is excellent, all conducted under the supervision of and in collaboration with our attorneys.  Our reception staff helps to usher clients into our practice areas, offering a welcome, support, and desperately needed information as well as referrals to those we cannot serve.  Our in-house financial team is dedicated to accuracy and timeliness, and makes sure we adhere to best practices for accounting professionals. Our volunteer Board of Directors, comprised of experienced professionals from the business, non-profit, and legal sectors, helps us plan for a brighter tomorrow.  In addition, countless volunteers work behind the scenes to expand our legal capacity, fundraise, and expertly update our website and social media platforms.

Recently, since the shelter-in-place order was announced, we started conducting all our work remotely, and clients can access all of our services in Immigration Law, Workers Rights, and Senior Law and Disability Law, by dialing our main number at (415)  575- 3500.  Our attorneys and legal workers are providing all of our legal intakes, services, client case management services, representation of clients, and filings from their home offices, without any disruption in the critical work we provide to the Bay Area’s immigrants and to those who traditionally have not been able to afford a lawyer.

I agree that these are challenging times we live in.  But isn’t it also true, that if we pause, and look at what we have with a fresh perspective, and gratitude, we see that we are very fortunate, indeed.  To support our work, please visit our Network for Good fundraising page.

Take care,

Amanda Alvarado Ford, Esq.