At Centro Legal de la Raza, the Fight for Immigrant Rights Takes Center Stage
Centro Legal de la Raza (Centro Legal) was founded in 1969 by Latino law students from Boalt Hall School of Law at U.C. Berkeley. Today, Centro Legal is a comprehensive legal services agency protecting and advancing the rights of immigrant, low-income, and Latino communities through bilingual legal representation, education, and advocacy. By combining quality legal services with know-your-rights education and youth development, Centro Legal promotes access to justice for thousands of individuals and families each year throughout Northern and Central California.
The Immigration Project at Centro Legal provides holistic direct services to immigrant families. Through the Immigration Project, Centro Legal staff provide thousands of consultations and represent hundreds of clients in a wide of array of matters, including visas for survivors of violence, family-based petitions, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), as well as detention and removal defense. Centro Legal provides all services at low or no cost to low-income families in the Bay Area and in rural parts of California. Additionally, the Immigration Project engages in advocacy efforts and collaborations in the fight for humane local, state, and national policies that ensure immigrants are provided with rights, respect, and due process.
Immigration has been a hot topic in American discourse as of late. Recently, Centro Legal responded to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding the injunction against the executive actions announced by President Obama last November that would have provided relief to an estimated five million people who are in the United States without status. Since the initial injunction that prevented implementation of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Legal Permanent Residents (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Centro Legal has continued to remind clients and supporters alike that while it is indispensable to continue fighting for access to DAPA and expanded DACA, the original DACA (announced in 2012) remains in effect, as do all existing forms of immigration relief.
In fact, due to the support of funders, Centro Legal has been the recipient of fellowships that have expanded staff capacity to work with individuals who are or would be eligible for DACA, expanded DACA, and DAPA. Centro Legal staff are working diligently to prepare those individuals for possible implementation of those programs as well as to pursue other forms of relief for those who qualify. Additionally, Centro Legal recently was the recipient of a grant that provides for the costs of services and the fees associated with applications for relief for qualifying Oakland residents. Individuals living in Oakland who qualify can apply for DACA and/or a more permanent form of immigration relief at absolutely no cost to them.
Following the surge of families and unaccompanied children at U.S. borders during the summer of 2014, the Immigration Project at Centro Legal expanded capacity to meet the needs of these vulnerable populations caught in the labyrinthine system of immigration, often without representation. In addition to providing life-saving legal representation, Centro Legal helps connect many of these clients with food programs, emergency housing, and mental health services to mitigate the ramifications of displacement. Recent statistics demonstrate that the numbers of people at U.S. borders fleeing their home countries have only skyrocketed. Centro Legal continues to leverage its resources to try to meet these increasing needs.
The discourse around immigration—regarding asylum, refugee status, enforcement, and executive actions alike— has grown intense due to events in recent months. In the face of increasing divisiveness, Centro Legal affirms its proud tradition of standing up for the rights of immigrants. Centro Legal rejects the hate that is so easily propagated during times of crisis and discomfort and instead continues to honor the humanity in the adults and children at our borders and in our communities who call—or long to call—the United States their home.
Organizations mentioned/involved: Centro Legal De La Raza