Matthew Palmquist

The Project

Matt (he/him/his) will partner with the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project to provide holistic representation for detained LGBTQIA+ migrants in Arizona via direct representation, strategic litigation, and community lawyering.

LGBTQIA+ migrants fleeing violence and discrimination at home often arrive at the Southwest Border only to encounter more of the same. Arizona has one of the highest immigrant detention rates in the nation, and many are locked up merely for asserting their legal right to seek asylum. In detention, queer migrants are particularly vulnerable. Nationwide, they represent 0.14% of detainees but 12% of sexual abuse cases and remain in ICE custody up to three times longer than cisgender, heterosexual migrants. Now more than ever, LGBTQIA+ migrants in Arizona need a dedicated advocate.

Matt is inspired by his musical genius Korean mother, who came to the U.S. back when racist quotas kept most Asians out, and his white, hippie science professor father, who left his church due to its opposition to gay rights. They taught him to embrace those who are different, fight for the less fortunate, and never give up on the gay agenda.

Fellowship Plans

During his Fellowship, Matt will provide direct representation for LGBTQIA+ migrants by fighting for their release through ICE advocacy and custody redetermination hearings. He will also strategically litigate asylum claims and build resources to help fellow practitioners. Finally, Matt will collaborate with existing community organizations to strengthen Arizona’s support system for LGBTQIA+ migrants and push for structural change.

Media

2022 Equal Justice Works Fellowship Winner Has a Passion for Immigrant Rights

69 countries still criminalize same-sex relationships−including the U.S. until 2003. Sexual orientation and gender identity can be strong bases for asylum, but, without representation, queer migrants often face prolonged detention and removal.

Matthew Palmquist /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Rosie ensures foster youth who have developmental disabilities receive the state services to which they are entitled by acting as a legal advocate for those children and training other attorneys to do the same.

In California, individuals who have certain developmental disabilities are entitled to state-funded services through non-profits called “Regional Centers.” As a former educator, Rosie has witnessed firsthand the impact that appropriate services like those provided by Regional Centers can have for children and young adults. While foster youth are statistically more likely to have developmental disabilities than youth who are not court-involved, many do not receive the Regional Center services to which they are entitled. Foster youth require specialized legal advocacy to ensure they receive these crucial, life-long services.

Through her experiences as a teacher and as a law student, Rosie came to understand the unique barriers that prevent foster children from accessing appropriate services. Her Fellowship aims to break those barriers down.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the past year, Rosie has:

  • Advised child welfare attorneys, caregivers, and CASA advocates on how to best handle Regional Center matters in more than 150 cases
  • Consulted on issues as varied as eligibility, appropriate services, Regional Center service plans, termination of eligibility, and more
  • Provided full representation to eight clients on issues including eligibility for Regional Center services, receipts of appropriate services after an eligibility finding, and the reinstatement of terminated services
  • Provided four trainings to dependency attorneys and investigators, with nearly 300 attorneys and investigators attending
  • Advocated that a Regional Center increase the services a particular foster child was eligible to receive, which resulted in the Regional Center agreeing to quadruple the number of hours per month to which the child is entitled
  • Filed three eligibility appeals with the Office of Administrative Hearings, which will hopefully result in three foster children being found eligible for lifelong Regional Center services

Next Steps

In the next year, Rosie plans to:

  • Provide direct representation on 10-20 Regional Center eligibility or services issues
  • Continue training child welfare attorneys on how to best advocate for clients who have developmental disabilities within their child welfare cases
  • Create a guidebook for child welfare attorneys to advocate for their Regional Center-eligible clients
  • Create a legislative proposal to address a state regulation that prevents Regional Center-eligible adults from continuing to live with their former foster parents after their child welfare case ends

Foster children with developmental disabilities are perhaps our most vulnerable population. Not only do these children have developmental disabilities, but many have also suffered the trauma of abuse, neglect, and removal from the only home they have ever known.

Rosie Frihart /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Courtney’s maternal medical-legal partnership is empowering low-income pregnant and postpartum women with mental health disabilities through direct legal services, know-your-rights trainings, and policy advocacy to foster health, housing, and family stability.

Courtney’s project addresses the social determinants of health behind the disparate rates of infant and maternal mortality, pre-term births, and mental health disabilities experienced by low-income women of color in Los Angeles County. When health issues are legally and socioeconomically rooted, it is difficult to sustainably improve health outcomes with medicine alone. By partnering with the county’s Nurse-Family Partnership (“NFP”) program, which provides physical and mental health care to low-income mothers through a home visitation model, Courtney’s innovative maternal medical-legal partnership pairs holistic legal advocacy in conjunction with NFP’s medical care. Her project addresses health-harming legal issues, including food and income insecurity, family violence, access to insured and affordable health care, housing instability and habitability issues, and more – all of which have become increasingly consequential for family stability during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Courtney’s passion to advocate for families stems from her upbringing and her exposure to the prevalent cycle of homelessness, hospitalization, and incarceration for people with mental health disabilities in Los Angeles. She has extensive experience working with clients with mental health disabilities in clinics and medical-legal partnership settings, creating legal resource materials on a variety of health law topics, and engaging with community stakeholders to influence public health policies.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the first year of the Fellowship, Courtney has:

  • Launched and expanded referral stream with NFP to provide legal services to mothers across Los Angeles County.
  • Provided holistic direct legal services for more than 40 families experiencing various inequities and resource insecurities ranging from housing, public benefits and income, family safety, and more.
  • Began collecting case outcome data to track the efficacy of the project and to develop a “best practices” guide for other service providers who also advocate for mothers.

Next Steps

In the next year, Courtney plans to:

  • Increase the project’s referral stream to more medical providers within the NFP program to serve more families.
  • Continue collecting client outcomes to establish the project’s reputation as a vital public health legal program for overall family stability, and to create a “best practices” guide for advocates working with similar client populations.
  • Secure funding to sustain the maternal medical-legal partnership beyond the fellowship term.

Media

USC Gould School of Law: Invested in public interest

When health issues are socioeconomically rooted and unaddressed, it is difficult to sustainably improve health outcomes.

Courtney Mendoza /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Inspiration

The Project

Rebecca oversaw the Public Counsel CARES (Connecting Angelenos with Resources and Essential Services) program, a legal advocacy program taking place in various offices of the L.A. County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS). Rebecca conducted trainings on public benefits for law students and volunteer attorneys and supervise and coordinate outreach outings to DPSS sites to assist impoverished, hungry and homeless individuals with shelter, food, health, transportation, and social services needs.

The Project

Gregory sought to enforce the mental health and immigration rights of detained non-citizens in removal proceedings who have mental and/or developmental disabilities. Additionally, Gregory advocated systemically for enhanced due process protections and mental health care for these clients.

The Project

Susanna assisted victims of domestic violence and victims of human trafficking to obtain legal status in the United States.

The Inspiration