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Athena Arana

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

The Project

Jenny (she/her/hers) will represent undocumented immigrants living on the Northern Central Coast of California in becoming lawful permanent residents through 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act and provide post-conviction relief services to those who need them.
There are about 83,000 undocumented immigrants living on the Northern Central Coast, many of whom are farmworkers. There are only five nonprofits that serve the area, but most of them provide limited immigration legal services and are unable to meet the need for representation. Consequently, many individuals are forced to travel several hours away to obtain assistance or fall victim to notaries who commit immigration fraud. A priority need of the community is assisting undocumented immigrants in becoming lawful permanent residents through 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as potentially tens of thousands qualify. Clients often also require post-conviction relief assistance, which is not currently offered by area nonprofits.
Jenny is passionate about working with the immigrant community because, growing up, she witnessed the struggles her undocumented parents faced. She specifically wants to help the immigrant community on the Northern Central Coast of California because she grew up there and has seen first-hand how the lack of immigration legal service providers has negatively impacted the community.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Jenny will conduct at least 200 pro bono consultations, assist 100 people in applying for their lawful permanent residency through 245(i), and help five people obtain post-conviction relief. Jenny will conduct community outreach throughout the three counties to inform people of these services. She will also strengthen CAB’s relationships with other service providers in the area to assist more people.

Since high school, my goal has been to provide quality immigration legal services to my community. After learning the skills and knowledge I need to be an effective advocate, I am happy to have the opportunity to return and serve my community.

Jenny Ballesteros Magdaleno /
2023 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Maya (she/her/hers) will establish a farmworker Medical-Legal Partnership hosted by the Central West Justice Center and in partnership with the Connecticut River Valley Farmworker Health Program to provide holistic care and advocacy in housing, benefits, and employment matters to farmworkers in Massachusetts.

Thousands of farmworkers in Western Massachusetts work for long hours and low pay to put food on our tables. In addition to extremely hazardous labor, farmworkers are twice as likely to live in severe poverty, face housing instability, poor living conditions, and food insecurity. Some farmworkers are also isolated and difficult to reach through traditional legal aid models. Maya’s project will develop and implement a Medical-Legal Partnership to address farmworkers’ unmet legal needs and work with medical clinic staff to improve the health and wellbeing of farmworkers and their families.

Maya is passionate about improving access to critical services for farmworkers in her community and aims to use her legal education to fight for the health justice and legal rights of this underserved population.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Maya will represent farmworker clients with their housing, benefits, and employment needs. She will be on-site in the farmworker medical clinic to provide advice and consultation to farmworkers. Maya will also engage with farmworkers and other organizations to conduct outreach and training on the rights and resources available to farmworkers. Finally, Maya will engage in policy advocacy on issues impacting farmworker health at the state and national levels.

Media

Four Northeastern Law Students Awarded Equal Justice Works Fellowships

Farmworkers are one of the most essential and underserved populations in Massachusetts. Having grown up in Springfield, I am proud to develop a model of holistic services to improve the health and well-being of farmworkers living in my community.

Maya McCann /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Gabo (he/him/his) will advance the rights of low-wage, Spanish-speaking workers in Yakima, Washington, experiencing wage theft, health and safety violations, discrimination, and retaliation.

In May 2020, warehouse workers across the Yakima Valley walked off the job demanding stronger protections as COVID-19 raged across their workplaces. Overwhelmingly Latino and often undocumented, these workers suffered the highest rate of infection on the West Coast, with no access to unemployment, workers’ compensation, or adequate health care. No other legal services provider in the state can help individual workers in employment matters regardless of immigration status. As a result, Yakima workers face a profound access-to-justice gap that makes it nearly impossible to recover stolen wages, enforce workplace safety protections, and fight discrimination in the workplace.

Fellowship Plans 

Gabo will represent individual workers with wage theft, health and safety, discrimination, and retaliation claims. He will also provide assistance to workers filing administrative complaints with state agencies. Alongside Fair Work Center’s Yakima-based educators, he will develop Spanish-language know your rights materials for Yakima workers. Finally, he will develop strategies to increase Washington labor agency enforcement of state wage and hour and health and safety standards.

Media

Meet Gabo Gutierrez

Three Class of 2021 grads have been awarded the Equal Justice Works Fellowship

As the child of a Latino immigrant, I went to law school to use my language skills to empower workers. Fair Work Center’s holistic model creates the opportunity for the type of collaborative, creative approaches I’ve seen transform the conditions and power dynamics of workplaces.

Gabo Gutierrez /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Anne provided direct legal services to Haitian farmworkers and the Haitian community through a Medical Legal Partnership with Florida Legal Services and Orange Blossom Family Health.

This Fellowship addressed the lack of legal services available to the Haitian community in Central Florida due to language barriers and cultural competence gaps. Haitian Farmworkers and their families have difficulties accessing legal aid and face unique barriers to healthcare access. This Medical-Legal Partnership provided the community with legal assistance and medical professionals that were culturally aware of their needs.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Anne:

  • Established a Medical Legal Partnership with Florida Legal Services and Orange Blossom Family Health to serve the Haitian community in Central Florida
  • Provided full representation to 35 clients, including on matters involving Social Security Disability claims, Temporary Protected Status, mortgage claims, and eviction issues
  • Provided brief services, advice and/or referrals to over 95 individuals
  • Gave 12 presentations to local community organizations on Temporary Protected Status and immigration scams to avoid, reaching nearly 300 community members
  • Through engagement with statewide organizations for farmworker justice, advocated for the creation of Florida’s first Farmworker Advisory Council under the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
  • Developed the first Haitian coalition in Central Florida, known as the Central Florida Haitian Coalition, to provide education on healthcare, immigration, and child welfare
  • Hosted four legal clinics with the Consulate of Haiti’s Emergency Haitian Task Force to address the needs of newly arriving immigrants in Orlando

Next Steps

Anne will continue to serve as the Medical Legal Partnership attorney with Florida Legal Services and Orange Blossom Family Health, growing the MLP to service Haitian crime victims. Anne will host legal clinics to ensure newly arriving immigrants have access to legal assistance and will host quarterly workshops to educate the Haitian community about healthcare, mental health, and housing issues.

Media

Equal Justice Works Celebrates the Work of Fellows for MLK Day

Equal Justice Works Fellows Use Personal Experiences to Impact Legal Aid Work

Celebrating Haitian women from across the spectrum

Building a Better Future Together

“L'union fait la force”—which means unity is strength—is Haiti’s national motto. As a Haitian-American woman and child of Haitian immigrants, I am driven to not simply give back, but to help create change to better the lives of Haitian farmworkers.

Anne Piervil /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Inspiration

The Inspiration

The Inspiration

The Inspiration