Jessica Neyman

The Inspiration

The Project

Abused, undocumented children are one of the most vulnerable segments of our society. Aside from the physical scars, they are unable to work or go to college. This dark past and dim future leads to their delinquency. Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) provides these children a means to citizenship. Through education of the legal community, outreach, and legal services, my project assists eligible children in obtaining SIJS through the Delinquency Court. Additionally, clients are provided with resources to help them achieve future goals.

The Inspiration

The Inspiration

The Inspiration

The Project

Rosibel empowered indigenous Mexican immigrants in San Diego County through community organizing to reduce linguistic and cultural barriers that inhibit their understanding of and access to the legal system.

Indigenous Mexican immigrants are frequently the victims of ineffective assistance of counsel and are prey for notarios who falsely claim to know the law. Language is one of the biggest challenges indigenous Mexicans face. They are presumed to speak Spanish, but it is not their native language and, in most instances, they do not understand it at all. Additionally, this population struggles to understand basic legal concepts and rights that are not found in their culture. This creates difficulty in providing legal advice and services, as these must be explained in a culturally sensitive manner to ensure understanding.

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Rosibel has:

  • Raised awareness about the indigenous Mexican community in San Diego County through cultural sensitivity presentations that provided information about the issues indigenous Mexican individuals face in obtaining legal services and how we can better work with them to ensure we are providing effective assistance
  • Performed outreach and education to the community through general immigration presentations which provided information on immigration benefits/relief and eligibility to apply
  • Provided direct representation to 65 clients in immigration matters varying from family petitions to VAWA/U-visa petitions for victims of domestic violence and other crimes, to naturalization applications

The Right Person For This Project

Rosibel is the rights person for the project because:

  • As an immigrant herself, she has firsthand knowledge about navigating the immigration legal system
  • Her personal connection to the community drove her to be involved in community organizations assisting immigrants, such as the San Diego Organizing Project, where she engaged in community organizing to help meet the needs of the immigrant community of Linda Vista
  • She volunteered with the Legal Aid of San Diego during law school to help clients resolve their immigration legal needs

My project empowers indigenous Mexican immigrants in San Diego County through community organizing which will reduce linguistic and cultural barriers

The Project

Curtis provided legal advocacy and outreach to low-income Imperial County students, parents, and guardians to decrease unlawful and disproportionate alternative school assignments and disciplinary action.

Imperial County has about 38,000 K-12 students. Over 75% of them are socioeconomically disadvantaged and 40% are English Learners. Many of these students are subjected to discipline for minor misconduct. Many have histories of poverty, trauma, abuse, or neglect and have unaddressed language, disability, and other educational needs. Increasingly, to improve discipline numbers, districts avoid expulsions (which they must report), and resort to transfers to alternative schools, involuntary assignments to independent study, and referrals to School Attendance Review Boards (SARB). This project addressed the school-to-nowhere pipeline and utilized strategies to dismantle it, ensuring Imperial County’s at-risk students remain in classrooms so they may have greater access to college and career opportunities.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship period, Curtis:

  • Maintained or secured comprehensive public-school placement with supportive services for 21 youth clients who faced alternative education involuntary school transfer actions by their school districts
  • Engaged in impact litigation to ensure that California Department of Education regulations meets its obligations under federal law with respect to the Migrant Education Program. The case is ongoing
  • Secured juvenile court and law enforcement’s compliance with state statutory and constitutional requirements by challenging unlawful detention practices of youth clients in juvenile justice cases
  • Trained over 150 advocates, probation officers, and juvenile public defenders on education equity legal issues
  • Presented to more than 500 parents, teachers, administrators, and other juvenile justice stakeholders through conferences, convenings, and know your rights workshops
  • Was appointed to the Imperial County Juvenile Justice Commission, a state-mandated commission responsible for oversight into the administration of juvenile court law in Imperial County

Next Steps

Following his Fellowship, Curtis continues serving clients as a California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) staff attorney based in the same office that hosted his Fellowship in El Centro, California. Curtis litigates impact cases from his Fellowship while serving new clients with education equity issues. As a staff attorney, Curtis expands his representation to CRLA’s other priority areas and clients’ needs, including housing, employment/labor, and rural health.

Media

An institutional culture of expulsion and ‘go along to get along’