Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus

Strengthening Advocacy and Representation of Low-Income AAPI Immigrants

The grant from MTYKL Foundation will support our 43-year tradition of providing free legal services for low-income immigrant Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the city of San Francisco alone, 14% of Asian Americans, approximately 40,000 people, are living in poverty. The need for free direct legal assistance to low-income and immigrant community members is more critical than ever.

The recent tragic death of Kate Steinle on San Francisco’s Pier 14 in July 2015 has incited anti-immigrant rhetoric and scapegoating of undocumented immigrants, especially from politicians pushing for measures that reestablish the cooperation between local law enforcement and immigration authorities and that undermine the community’s trust of local law enforcement and the integration of immigrant communities.

This anti-immigrant trend reflects the challenge in the sheer volume of immigrants that need direct legal services, especially in immigration detention. We are the only AAPI legal organization in the country providing direct service representation in detention. 83% of people in detention are forced to represent themselves and many in our community are limited-English proficient.

Our proposed activities under this grant will be composed of the following:

Community Education and Outreach: An important aspect of empowering the community involves informing them of their legal rights and providing updates in relevant law and policy. This is important because the community needs culturally and linguistically competent information from trusted sources. We will be conducting outreach to traditionally underserved AAPI communities on Deferred Action and other immigration remedies. We also conduct weekly outreach in local mosques on civil rights and other immigration issues.

Advice/Counsel/Referral: Our long-established immigration clinics serve a vital need in the community. For many, our organization is the first and sometimes the only free legal resource they are able to access. We provide confidential advice, counsel, and other limited services such as assisting the client with pro se representation (where they represent themselves). We also provide referrals to other resources for any cases for which we are not able to render service.

Representation: We regularly provide full representation to clients before administrative bodies or the courts, at both the trial level and appeals level. We regularly appear before the Immigration Court and the Board of Immigration Appeals, and on occasion the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In addition, we expect to continue providing high levels of service to individuals in removal proceedings and to maintain a special focus on individuals in immigration detention. Our goal is to provide full representation in at least 100 cases over the course of the year.

Founded in 1972, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus is the nation’s first legal and civil rights organization serving low-income Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.