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Adrienne Phạm

  • Hosted by Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California
  • Sponsored by Microsoft Corporation, Reed Smith LLP
  • Service location Orange County, California
  • Law school University of California, Irvine School of Law
  • Issue area Criminal Justice Reform, Immigrant Populations
  • Fellowship class year 2024
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Adrienne (she/her) challenges the systemic issues that disproportionately affect Southeast Asian (“SEA”) refugees by making post-conviction relief for immigration purposes and culturally sensitive legal representation more accessible.

SEA refugees are distinct from other immigrant groups because their trauma is twofold; after being displaced by war and violence, they were also forced to grapple with the challenges of navigating a new cultural environment. Their trauma manifests in various ways, including challenges with mental health, difficulty in adapting to a new culture, and, in some cases, involvement in criminal activities as a means of coping or survival. SEA refugees, consequently, are three to five times more likely to be deported on the basis of old criminal convictions compared with other refugee communities. Economic, cultural, and language barriers faced by SEA immigrants underscore the dire need for affordable and accessible legal representation in post-conviction immigration cases. In spite of this demand, pro bono post-conviction relief services in Orange County for SEA refugees are extremely limited and impacted—where resides the largest Vietnamese immigrant population outside of Vietnam.

Adrienne has observed firsthand how easy it is for immigrants to feel misunderstood and mistreated when they are met with so many barriers to residency and citizenship. She believes that understanding the cultural forces that influence her clients’ motivations and end goals enables her to amplify the voices of SEA immigrants and empower them to confidently advocate for themselves.

Fellowship Plans

During her fellowship, Adrienne will represent SEA immigrants in filing California Penal Code § 1473.7(a)(1) motions to vacate prior convictions because of prejudicial error that hurt the clients’ abilities to “meaningfully understand, defend against, or knowingly accept the actual or potential adverse immigration consequences of a conviction or sentence.” After vacating their deportable convictions, these clients will be able to challenge their removal orders or pursue immigration benefits without fear of ICE detection. In addition, Adrienne will also collaborate with community organizers and the Orange County Public Defender’s Office to host community training workshops on post-conviction relief, empowering SEA immigrants to learn about their relief options and regain agency over their immigration journeys.

“My commitment to this project is rooted in my upbringing as a child of Vietnamese American refugees. Coming from a community that exemplifies such resilience has radically shaped my understanding of justice.”

Adrienne Pham /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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