Centro Legal de la Raza

Project: Advocating for Asylum-Seekers from Central America and Mexico

In the past year, a humanitarian crisis exploded in Central America and Mexico, with gang and gender violence reaching record levels. As a result, children and families throughout Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico have sought protection in the United States in record numbers.

The United States federal government has designated this population as a priority for deportation and their cases are heard on an expedited basis on the “surge docket.” The San Francisco Immigration Court continues to have among the highest numbers nationally of families and children in expedited removal proceedings due to the large Central American community that exists in the Bay Area and Central Valley.

In order to respond to this ongoing crisis, Centro Legal has been working to leverage as many of our resources as possible to represent hundreds of clients seeking asylum from continued violence and potential death.

Through our weekly service as volunteer “attorney of the day” at the San Francisco Immigration Court where we represent hundreds of asylum seekers each month, our bimonthly in-house and communitybased clinics, and the special clinics we hold in partnership with the Oakland and Hayward school districts, we have provided over 2,000 legal consultations to individuals and families who are seeking asylum but have been placed on expedited deportation dockets.

At present, Centro Legal has over 720 pending cases for unaccompanied children and young families on the “surge docket.” In addition to the cases handled by our team of 8 immigration attorneys, we continue to provide extensive training, mentorship, and supervision to over 150 pro bono volunteer attorneys handling individual cases. We have already received over 150 grants of protection for children and young families who are now no longer in danger of being deported to countries where they have been tortured and face likely death.

Without an attorney, individuals are forced to represent themselves, which increases the chance that they will lose their cases, even if they have meritorious defenses to deportation. For the vast majority of these individuals, having a lawyer is a matter of life and death.

The grant from the Minami Tamaki Yamauchi Kwok & Lee Foundation will allow us to serve a greater number of children and young families seeking protection by working directly with our attorneys and legal staff to help draft client declarations, research and compile country conditions evidence, and assist in gathering corroborating documentation.

Centro Legal de la Raza is a comprehensive community center that promotes and protects the rights of low-income, immigrant, and Latino communities through bilingual legal representation, education, and advocacy. Through its immigration program, Centro Legal stabilizes immigrant families and communities by helping them avoid the devastating effects of deportation and advances the civil rights of immigrants in detention. Founded in 1969 and located in Oakland, Centro Legal has been a cornerstone of justice for the Bay Area’s Latino, immigrant, and low-income communities for over 46 years.