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Joshua Abeyta

  • Sponsored by Disaster Resilience Program
  • Service location Maui, Hawaii
  • Law school Santa Clara University School of Law
  • Issue area Disaster Recovery, Disaster Response and Preparedness
  • Fellowship class year 2023
  • Program Disaster Resilience Program

The Project

Joshua Abeyta (he/him/his) will provide direct legal services to immigrants and migrants impacted by the August 2023 Maui fires and engage in related advocacy and education work.  

With approximately 33% of Lahaina’s residents being foreign-born, compared to 17% of Maui County generally, the Maui fires had a significant impact on the immigrant and migrant community. Moreover, there is a shortage of legal service providers that provide free or low-cost immigration services to Hawaiʻi residents, with approximately ten attorneys working year-round to meet the immigration needs of approximately 110,000 noncitizens. Of the few organizations serving low-income noncitizens in Hawaiʻi, most are limited in the types of cases or clients that they may take on. Thus, many noncitizens impacted by the Maui fires do not have access to free or low-cost immigration services, particularly those who are undocumented, seeking asylum, or facing removal proceedings.  

Fellowship Plans

Josh will build relationships with partner organizations to serve low-income immigrants and migrants in Hawaii. These organizations will provide insight into the gaps in service that currently exist. These relationships with partner organizations will also create avenues for referral so that clients not served by existing organizations can be identified. Josh will also provide direct legal services to immigrants and migrants impacted by the Maui fires. Finally, Josh will collaborate with partner organizations to host educational workshops in the community.  

Josh is passionate about serving immigrant communities because of his background of living in predominantly immigrant communities. From the moment Josh was introduced to the practice of immigration law by participating in his law school’s immigration clinic, he gained an appreciation for the need for more attorneys to represent low-income immigrants.  

With 33% of Lahaina’s population being foreign-born, the Maui fires had a harsh impact on the immigrant community. When this community’s legal needs are met, they can heal faster knowing that their immigration status will not further upend their lives.

Joshua Abeyta /
2023 Fellow in the Disaster Resilience Program

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