Daniel (Duchoang) Pham

The Project

Duchoang helped to build the first legal aid office in Houston specializing in employment law assistance for low-wage working men and women regardless of their immigration status.

Houston is the nation’s fourth-largest city, and by some measures, it’s most diverse. Employment exploitation is widespread in Houston and the surrounding region, in large part because low-income working people have little access to the justice system and to legal representation that would give them full power to enforce their employment rights. The Equal Justice Center – Houston became the first law office specifically focused on enforcing the basic employment rights of low-wage workers in the Houston area. This project made significant strides towards access to justice for those working people whose immigration status makes them ineligible for federally-funded legal assistance and for those who may be citizens or authorized immigrants but are afraid to assert their basic employment rights because they have family members who are undocumented and hence vulnerable.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Duchoang:

  • Engaged in direct representation of low-wage workers in a variety of labor and employment claims, including minimum wage and overtime violations, employment discrimination, and labor trafficking
  • Arrived at favorable settlement for clients in multiple employment cases, including three involving unpaid wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), two involving labor trafficking, one involving pregnancy discrimination, and one involving retaliation for taking medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Collaborated with community-based partner El Pueblo Primero in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing general legal information and assistance for its COVID-19 hotline, issuing joint statements, and providing legal advice regarding the COVID-19 employment situation of its members
  • Developed Vietnamese-language outreach materials for the Equal Justice Center and Vietnamese- language COVID-19 Employment Rights Fact Sheets for distribution through network of Texas-based workers’ and immigrants’ rights advocates

Next Steps

Duchoang will remain with the Equal Justice Center as a staff attorney, where he will continue representing low-wage workers and working towards increasing the organization’s impact in the Houston area.

Media

Workers Continue to Battle University of Houston Over Wage Theft Claims

Undocumented Workers Lose Millions to Wage-Theft and it's Getting Worse During the Pandemic

As the child of two refugees, I want to help those who—like my parents four decades ago—have come to our country looking for a new home.

Daniel Pham /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Eleni challenged unlawful immigration detention and border practices through federal impact litigation and advocacy and conducted a national review of the state of medical and mental health care in immigration detention.

As a result of the global refugee crisis and the rapid expansion of immigration detention—what some have called the largest mass incarceration movement in U.S. history—the number of detained asylum seekers has grown exponentially. Detention is associated with poorer health and legal outcomes, resulting in long-term harm to asylum seekers. Under the Trump administration, we are also witnessing increased barriers to the legal right to seek asylum, including criminal prosecutions of asylum seekers, widespread denial of parole, and turn-backs at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Fellowship Highlights

During the Fellowship period, Eleni has:

  • Helped lead Human Rights First’s impact litigation work in Damus v. Nielsen and O.A. v. Trump. The first—a federal class action lawsuit—challenges the detention of asylum seekers without meaningful consideration of their eligibility for release on parole. The second federal lawsuit challenges the Department of Homeland Security’s policy of barring those who enter the United States between ports of entry from seeking asylum.
  • Published three reports on immigrant detention conditions, healthcare, and barriers to seeking asylum and shared findings from her research with media and at a shadow hearing on family separation hosted by the House Women’s Working Group on Immigration Reform.
  • Led the drafting of two amicus briefs, both submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in two cases challenging inadequate release from detention mechanisms and the “Remain in Mexico” policy.

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Eleni plans to continue working with immigrant populations at CAIR Coalition by providing direct representation to immigrants detained at detention centers in Maryland and Virginia through a universal representation program.

Media

Mexican Authorities Are Stopping Unaccompanied Kids From Seeking Asylum In The US At Every Turn

Texas camp for unaccompanied migrant children set to close after multiple extensions

Family Separations Are Just the Tip of the Iceberg at Texas Detention Centers

Bakst '17 receives two-year Equal Justice Works fellowship

The Project

Jenna created a nationwide Medical-Legal Partnership to obtain medical/psychological assessments and records review to support veterans’ applications for benefits before military correction boards and the Departments of Veterans Affairs.

Veterans’ applications for disability benefits and discharge upgrades frequently hinge on a corroborating psychiatric or medical opinion. Unfortunately, many veterans do not have access to high quality, low-cost medical care to obtain an expert opinion in support of their application for benefits or records correction. A nationwide Medical-Legal Partnership enables practitioners and advocates to identify professionals willing to work with these veterans and provide these necessary opinions for a reasonable, reduced-price fee.

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Jenna:

  • Created partnerships with 27 individuals and clinics who agreed to be part of the Medical-Legal Partnership and provide expert opinions in veterans’ cases
  • Placed 35 cases with experts for medical opinions to bolster applications for military medical retirements, upgrades in veterans’ characterization of discharge, and disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs for survivors of Military Sexual Trauma
  • Provided brief service and advice to 147 veterans and full representation to another 144 veterans for assistance with applications for military medical retirements and discharge upgrades
  • Developed a Medical-Legal Partnership Training Manual, Discharge Upgrade, and Wrongful Personality Disorder Discharges, and contributed to a chapter in a treatise on veterans law regarding discharge upgrades

Next Steps

Following her Fellowship, Jenna has stayed on at NVLSP as a staff attorney. She assists with applications for medical retirements and records corrections, and continues to monitor and work with the Medical-Legal Partnership she developed during her Fellowship. She also continues to train and mentor pro bono attorneys assisting veterans with applications for medical retirement or discharge upgrades or other matters.