Elizabeth (Lizzie) will provide education advocacy to children with disabilities in Austin, Texas. Here, she hopes to prevent and correct misplacement in segregated special education programs, disciplinary alternative education programs, and juvenile justice facilities.
Widespread systemic issues impacting the Austin Independent School District’s evaluation system resulted in delayed evaluations of thousands of students in violation of federal and state laws. This delay resulted in the misplacement of students with disabilities in segregated schools, disciplinary settings, and the juvenile justice system for unsupported disability-related behaviors. Children with disabilities are already overrepresented in these settings. What’s worse, the physical restraint of students, which is inherently traumatizing, is far more likely to happen in segregated behavior settings and to students who have disabilities. Moreover, under-resourced families are disproportionately represented in these systems, yet, are the least likely to reach out to protection and advocacy organizations for help.
During her Fellowship, Lizzie will provide direct representation and advocacy to students with disabilities at risk of and currently navigating the juvenile justice system and provide advocacy coaching to their families. She will use Disability Rights Texas’ protection and advocacy access authority to monitor segregated special education placements in the Austin area for compliance with federal disability laws and advocate for youth who have been misplaced in those settings to be returned to the regular school environment. Additionally, she will develop relationships with juvenile justice system actors and educators to locate children in need of legal services and promote a lasting reduction in misplacement of children with disabilities.
Lizzie is determined to better serve children with disabilities through a legal career in special education advocacy.
As a speech-language pathologist in the public school setting, I repeatedly encountered situations where children were not served appropriately due to areas of disability that were unidentified, and therefore, unsupported. I realized that my therapeutic training was ineffective if my students were barred from accessing it.
Elizabeth Allen /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Alicia provides direct immigration legal services to immigrants held in detention centers in and around Waco, as well as noncitizens who have criminal records affecting their immigration cases.
Detained immigrants in Waco and adjacent Limestone County have extremely limited access to legal counsel because of the lack of capacity among the public interest organizations in Waco. Through her Fellowship, Alicia provides legal advice and representation to indigent detainees who are in immigration detention in and around Waco. She assists asylum seekers as well as noncitizens who have criminal convictions or are facing criminal charges while navigating the immigration system. She also provides immigration advisals for criminal defense attorneys who have noncitizen clients.
Alicia’s heritage has helped her connect with the immigrant community and motivates her to help those who otherwise might not have the legal representation they need.
Fellowship Highlights to Date
So far during her Fellowship, Alicia has:
- Providing full representation to 20 clients, as well as brief services and/or legal advice to over 50 additional individuals
- Successfully assisted an asylum seeker whose case had been wrongfully denied to secure asylum on appeal in collaboration with a pro bono attorney
- Helped a detainee secure his release and represented him in pursuing legal status before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from outside of I.C.E. custody
- Assisted a client in avoiding ICE custody and removal proceedings, successfully advocating for the client to have the ICE hold lifted
- Collaborated with seven other groups to expand the reach and impact of the project
In the next year, Alicia plans to:
- Continue representing non-citizens before the immigration court and USCIS
- Continue assisting non-citizens secure their release from immigration detention
- Host two CLE trainings for criminal defense attorneys in Waco and McLennan County focused on examining the immigration consequences of criminal convictions
- Continue providing immigration advisals to criminal defense attorneys and their noncitizen clients
As the daughter and granddaughter of Mexican immigrants, I have always been passionate about helping other immigrants navigate the immigration system.
Alicia Alvarado /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow