Alex Milvae

  • Hosted by Greater Boston Legal Services
  • Sponsored by The Vertex Foundation
  • Service location Boston, Massachusetts
  • Law school Harvard Law School
  • Issue area Immigrant Populations
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Using a community lawyering model, Alex provides legal support to undocumented Asian immigrants and Asian American advocacy organizations in Greater Boston in partnership with grassroots groups.

Undocumented Asian immigrants comprise nearly 30% of Massachusetts’ undocumented population, totaling around 50,000 individuals. Due to a lack of language access, stigma, and misconceptions about both immigration and broader vulnerability (including the pervasive “model minority myth”), service providers often limit services directed toward undocumented Asian immigrants. By partnering with grassroots, community organizations – including groups led by undocumented individuals – lawyers like Alex can contribute to the growing movement for broad-based immigrant justice.

After spending four years teaching and studying in China and Taiwan, Alex spent his time in law school working in community lawyering practices on behalf of low-income tenants, workers, and immigrants. He believes that by partnering closely with organizers, lawyers can be part of the necessary struggle for broader social justice.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the first year of the Fellowship, Alex has:

  • Provided full representation to over two dozen clients, covering a variety of immigration cases such as Adjustment of Status, U Visa, VAWA, Derivative Citizenship, and Removal Defense.
  • Streamlined system for screening undocumented immigrants for potential relief, connecting clients to community partners for related support, and providing ancillary services like emergency relief funding.
  • Coordinated campaign led by Malden public housing residents to fight for improved language access throughout the city, which has led to increased translation and in-language services.

Next Steps

In the next year, Alex plans to:

  • Organize a wide-reaching outreach campaign into exurbs like Quincy to share information about immigration relief, individual rights, and available benefits for undocumented communities.
  • Create a storytelling project to highlight the lived experiences of especially vulnerable undocumented immigrants, such as elders, immigrants with criminal convictions, and those without family in the U.S.
  • Continue working on dozens of individual immigration cases, while exploring both new types of cases to take on and potential pro bono partnerships.

Media

Public Charge Rule ends, more people should apply for public benefits

How US cities fixed violations to Asian Americans' voting rights in 2020

How a Boston suburb corrected voter rights violations against Asian Americans

Malden Making Strides with Chinese American Voters

The community lawyering model used by the Asian Outreach Unit, which emphasizes community-led decision-making and places lawyering as simply one of many tools in the fight for social justice, can truly produce lasting social change.

Alex Milvae /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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