Carmen Iguina

  • Hosted by American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California
  • Sponsored by Equal Justice Works
  • Service location Los Angeles, California
  • Law school New York University School of Law
  • Issue area Immigrant Populations, Immigration Law Reform
  • Fellowship class year 2012
  • Program AmeriCorps Fellows Program, Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Carmen expanded access to justice for vulnerable immigrant populations, including immigrants with mental disabilities, unaccompanied minors, and detained asylum seekers, through direct legal representation, impact litigation, policy advocacy, and monitoring of detention facility conditions.

Without legal representation and adequate language assistance, many asylum seekers cannot effectively present their claims for relief. Most do not understand the complexities of immigration law or have sufficient command of the English language. Too many are detained for extended periods—months or even years—without any progress on their asylum petition. The problems facing detained asylum seekers are particularly acute in Southern California. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has dramatically expanded detention facilities in the region. All of the Southern California facilities resemble jails or actually are jails. The placement of asylum seekers in such punitive environments often re-traumatizes those who fled imprisonment or violence in their home country. Legal service providers have not had the resources to provide much, if any, assistance in the expanded facilities, and the few legal materials available are generally only in English.

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Carmen:

  • Worked as co-counsel in the historic case Franco-Gonzalez v. Holder that established the right to legal representation in removal hearings for immigrants with mental disabilities
  • Provided advice to more than 1,700 Franco-Gonzalez class members and their families
  • Represented five asylum seekers in Alfaro Garcia v. Johnson, a class action lawsuit challenging the unlawful prolonged detention of asylum seekers because of ICE’s failure to comply with its own regulation regarding the timeliness of processing certain asylum applications
  • Represented eight children in J.E.F.M. v. Holder, a nationwide class action seeking to establish the right to counsel for children in their removal hearings
  • Educated detainees about their rights to a bond hearing pursuant to Rodriguez v. Robbins, which ordered the government to provide bond hearings for individuals detained for more than six months

What’s Next

Carmen continues to work for her host organization, ACLU of Southern California. She is working to expand the right to counsel to other vulnerable groups in their immigration proceedings, and protect the rights of detained asylum seekers.

I want to change the all-but-certain likelihood of getting lost in the complexities of the immigration system to allow for the possibility of real justice.

Carmen Iguina /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

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Theodore Roethke

Host: Asian Law Caucus

Sponsor: Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

Alisa Wellek

Host: Immigrant Defense Project

Sponsor: Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel

Jessica Jones

Host: Women's Refugee Commission/Detention and Asylum Program

Sponsor: Steptoe & Johnson LLP

Kari White

Host: The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland

Sponsor: Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation