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Athena Arana

  • Hosted by Legal Aid at Work
  • Sponsored by Fenwick & West LLP
  • Service location Napa and Sonoma Counties, California
  • Law school University of California, Berkeley School of Law
  • Issue area Farmworkers, Immigrant Populations, Workers' Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2024
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Athena (she/ella) will represent immigrant and undocumented workers in Napa and Sonoma counties who have no access to free employment legal services, leveraging new federal and state programs aimed at encouraging undocumented workers to vindicate their rights.

While Napa and Sonoma counties are internationally known for their award-winning wines, lesser known is that undocumented workers, disproportionately represented in wine-related sectors like agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and hospitality, are overworked and exploited to keep this billion-dollar industry running. As the climate crisis exacerbates wildfires, flooding and extreme heat in the region, low-income, largely undocumented farmworkers work in progressively unbearable conditions. Well-founded fears of immigration-related retaliation by powerful wine industry employers dissuades many workers from filing complaints and no other legal services provider in the region can help individual workers in employment matters regardless of immigration status. As a result, this rural, often isolated workforce faces a profound access-to-justice gap that makes it nearly impossible to recover stolen wages, enforce safety protections, and fight discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace.

Athena’s immigrant and low-income background motivates her commitment to provide trauma-informed, culturally competent legal advocacy that derives from and centers the needs of the immigrant community. She hopes to dedicate her career to providing free legal representation to immigrant workers that seek to obtain fair wages and working conditions for themselves, their coworkers, and their community.

Fellowship Plans

Athena will empower immigrant workers to fight against oppressive employment practices through outreach and education in partnership with local immigrant-serving organizations, direct legal representation, and impact litigation focusing on expanding protections for immigrant low-wage workers. Athena will also utilize and expand access to recently formalized immigration policies that provide Deferred Action to witnesses and victims of workplace violations. Athena will increase awareness of this important protection against immigration-related retaliation and advocate with employment enforcement agencies to ensure equitable access to this benefit for low-income immigrant workers.

“This Fellowship represents an important step towards combatting the historical lack of investment of resources in this region’s low-wage and largely undocumented workforce."

Athena Arana /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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