Cristina Rodriguez

The Project

Cristina’s (she/her/hers) project with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project will focus on empowering and advocating for Indigenous Guatemalan women and children who have fled gender and family-based violence through community education, outreach, and direct representation.

Recently, Indigenous Guatemalan families have increasingly immigrated to rural Washington counties. A large percentage of this community are women and children who have very little access to legal resources and are unrepresented in removal proceedings. They are at an urgent risk of being returned to a country where they are very likely to continue experiencing persecution. But addressing this need is complicated by language barriers, cultural differences, and general distrust of outsiders fostered by the history of violence and oppression in their home country.

Indigenous Guatemalan women and children need a comprehensive response that combines direct immigration representation and empowerment through community education and outreach.

Cristina’s passion for this work began at a very young age when she watched her family and community struggle to navigate the immigration system. Her immigrant heritage and low-income background motivates her commitment to developing a grassroots movement for immigrant justice in the Latinx Indigenous community.

Fellowship Plans

Cristina’s project provides three forms of service delivery: community education and outreach will help give power and decision-making back to Indigenous immigrant communities; direct immigration representation may provide a pathway to permanent residency for women and children facing deportation; creating sustainable and ongoing legal materials for attorneys and legal advocates will make it easier to represent this community who is in urgent need.

Media

Jemimah Kamau and Cristina Rodriguez Named 2022 Equal Justice Works Fellows

I pursued higher education to gain the tools necessary to redistribute power back to my communities. My Equal Justice Works Fellowship will provide me with the support and resources to do this and so much more!

Cristina Rodriguez /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Jemimah will respond to the growing legal and social services needs of Black immigrants in a culturally responsive and linguistically competent manner through workshops, intakes, direct representation, and case referrals.

Racial profiling of Black immigrants has resulted in the unjustifiable mass deportation of this community. In fact, 76% of Black immigrants are deported on criminal grounds compared to 45% of all other immigrants. In the context of immigration, there is generally no right to an attorney. With immigration legal services at capacity, many immigrants are deported without legal representation or an opportunity to present their cases. This project will create capacity and address a particular shortcoming facing Black immigrant communities; namely, the absence of culturally sensitive and linguistically competent legal representation. Helping Black immigrants meet their legal and social needs is at the center of this project.

Fellowship Plans

During this Fellowship, Jemimah will: 1) Increase awareness about the legal and social needs of Black immigrants through outreach, community education, and partnership; 2) provide short-term legal services and direct legal representation to Black immigrants in a culturally sensitive and linguistically competent manner; and 3) establish a referral process with non-immigration legal service providers and community partners, such as schools and churches, to provide holistic services to Black immigrants.

Media

Jemimah Kamau and Cristina Rodriguez Named 2022 Equal Justice Works Fellows

As a Black immigrant, I know what it’s like to handle immigration matters without legal representation and adequate language skills. I will continue to advocate for the legal and social needs of Black immigrants, who face additional barriers including language and culture.

Jemimah Kamau /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

As an Equal Justice Works Fellow, Aurora worked on the housing justice project, a pro bono eviction defense program for low-income tenants.

Fellowship Highlights

During Aurora’s Fellowship, she learned how to coordinate pro bono services for eviction defense and directly represent clients.  Toward the end of her Equal Justice  Works Fellowship, Aurora had the opportunity to address systemic issues related to predatory eviction practices of slum landlords.

Next Steps

After working at Columbia Legal Services from intern to executive director, for a total tenure of nearly twenty years, Aurora stepped down to develop her own consulting business focused on social justice work.  Although she continues to do some consulting for a few nonprofit and legal aid clients, she is mostly now focused on co-leading a coalition-based environmental and climate justice organization, comprised of communities of color-led groups. Additionally, other key engagements include helping to launch the Social Justice Film Institute and coordinating the Federal Acknowledgment efforts of the Duwamish Tribe, the maternal tribe of Chief Seattle.

Media

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The Project

Olivia (she/her/hers) will aid young people experiencing homelessness in successfully navigating the public benefits process through a wide range of advocacy in Snohomish County, Washington.

In Washington, over 13,000 young people are homeless and unaccompanied, making up more than 32% of the homeless population. Young people who are Black, Indigenous, pregnant or parenting, LGTBQ, disabled, involved with juvenile justice or foster care, or victims of sexual exploitation disproportionately experience homelessness. This population faces countless challenges in a system of services designed for adults.

This project will fund the only attorney in Snohomish County dedicated to advocating for the rights of homeless young people to access and maintain public benefits. It will fill a gap identified by community stakeholders and promote access to life-sustaining benefits for a vulnerable population.

As a person of color with a disability, Olivia is driven to serve young people as they navigate the complexities of obtaining and maintaining public benefits.

Fellowship Plans

Olivia will collaborate with stakeholders to implement a Public Benefits Clinic for young people experiencing homelessness. She will create accessible materials for young people educating them on the public benefits process. In addition, Olivia will develop a questionnaire to gather relevant information about youth clients and inform future work with homeless young people.

Receiving legal aid was instrumental to my graduation from college. I am honored to build community with and serve the most marginalized young people in Snohomish County and facilitate their healing as my attorneys did mine.”

Olivia Ortiz /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Bailey seeks to empower vulnerable communities of color to resist capital punishment convictions in the Greater New Orleans Area.

People are being sentenced to death at an alarming rate in Louisiana—specifically African Americans. A steady rate of capital convictions persists, despite the current stay on executions in the state. Once convicted, the majority of individuals have little post-conviction legal assistance available to them, and many are unaware of the resources that do exist. Additionally, many of these capital defendants are black or people of color (POC) and indigent. Vulnerable communities can resist the school to capital punishment pipeline and fight back against capital convictions when they understand the inner workings of Louisiana’s racially targeted capital punishment system.

Bailey’s internship working on Louisiana’s Death Row exposed her to the humanity of those awaiting execution. Her Haitian roots, mixed with her dedication to equity for black and POC communities, inspire her to do this work.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

During the first year of the Fellowship, Bailey has:

  • Directly representing two clients on post-conviction capital appeal cases. Bailey met with both clients and was the first attorney either of them had spoken to in person since the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Created a comprehensive report for an expert questionnaire.
  • Argued motions in front of the Court for one of her cases.

Next Steps

In the next six months, Bailey plans to:

  • Connect with local organizations to obtain data relevant to the research portion of her project.
  • Organize data and create an infographic and digital/hardcopy pamphlet with information on the post-conviction process, statistics of who ends up on Louisiana’s Death Row, and resources for families caught in the capital carceral system.
  • Take on a new client case in 2022.
  • Create a list of organizations to distribute pamphlets and infographics too.

Media

Fighting for My Clients’ Right to Life

I found something I didn’t know was lost—community. My community. My community encompasses the black, brown, and queer POC of New Orleans. These communities enveloped me in their love, strength and pain. I want to return the embrace by sharing the tools involved in dismantling the systematic oppression that they battle every day. This fellowship allows me to do that.

Bailey Russell /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Casey used community education, research, policy advocacy, and litigation on behalf of Washington’s children/youth who are low-income, at risk, homeless, or in foster care.

What’s Next?

Casey is now the director for youth homelessness at the Raikes Foundation. In this role, he works on a national, state and local strategy to address, and ultimately prevent youth homelessness. Following his Equal Justice Works Fellowship, he continued working at Columbia Legal Services, ultimately serving as the directing attorney for the Children and Youth Project, advocating for at-risk, homeless and foster children and youth. Casey is a special advisor to the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Commission on Homelessness and Poverty as well as a former co-chair of the ABA’s Children’s Rights Litigation Committee. He has authored and edited numerous books and articles on at-risk, homeless, and foster children and has been awarded the ABA’s Child Advocacy Award—Distinguished Lawyer (2011) as well as a number of other national and local awards.

Media

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The Project

Crystal provided legal support and engaged in community organizing and political advocacy for Indigenous students and families who are disproportionately affected by the school-to-prison pipeline.

Culturally-uninformed school discipline proceedings disproportionately affect students of color in Washington State. Compared to their peers, Native American students specifically are 30% more likely to experience long-term school discipline and referrals to the juvenile justice system, twice as likely to repeat a grade, and three times as likely to drop out of school. Native students often lack legal advocacy during discipline hearings, leading to devastating long-term impacts on their access to education.

When many education services moved to remote access only because of COVID-19, tribal communities struggled to maintain a connection to imperative services. In the education equity context, Native American students living in areas with little to no broadband internet access were at risk of falling behind because they were unable to access the school classroom and educational materials online.

Fellowship Highlights

During her two-year Fellowship, Crystal:

  • Provided advice and brief service to 200 clients on school discipline, first amendment law, and tribal broadband law through know-your-rights events, ALCU intake line, and community referrals
  • Engaged in legal advocacy related to the rights of Native Americans in detention and prisons
  • Filed multiple amicus briefs addressing anti-Native American disparities in the Washington child welfare system
  • Attended 150 meetings for stakeholder groups and Native American community organizations on broadband expansion and school reopening
  • Provided counsel to representatives from several Washington tribes on federal broadband expansion bills
  • Lobbied to the state legislature for equitable broadband service deployment

Next Steps

Crystal will join the Seattle public interest law firm Ziontz Chestnut as an associate attorney, where she will represent tribes and related entities across a variety of federal Indian law issues.

Media

Indigenous struggles, Indigenous resilience

2020 Scales of Justice Highlights

As an Equal Justice Works Fellow, I’m committed to addressing the needs of Native American youth in Washington, and I’m eager to work to ensure their secure access to education.

Crystal Pardue /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Michelle provided trauma-informed legal representation to vulnerable undocumented children and youth navigating immigration removal proceedings and the child welfare and/or delinquency systems in the Los Angeles area.

This project provided support, advocacy, and legal representation to undocumented children and youth concurrently navigating immigration removal proceedings and the state child welfare and/or delinquency systems. Michelle shed light on the special needs and considerations that must be addressed when representing and supporting undocumented children and youth who have endured tremendous trauma prior to and during their lives in the United States. With zealous advocacy and trauma-informed representation, Michelle achieved successful outcomes to ensure her clients’ special circumstances were properly addressed in their immigration cases and that will help them reach permanent relief and healing.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Michelle:

  • Established partnerships with the Children’s Law Center of California in Los Angeles, the country’s largest public interest law firm representing children in dependency proceedings, and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, to provide immigration representation to dependent children and youth in removal proceedings
  • Represented dozens of clients between the ages of 6 and 22 and successfully obtained immigration relief for them, including dismissal of removal proceedings, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, employment authorization, and lawful permanent residency
  • Worked closely with defense counsel in delinquency proceedings and child counsel in dependency proceedings to achieve positive outcomes for clients in their state-court cases and protect their immigration cases
  • Created internal guide for Immigrant Defenders Law Center attorneys to navigate dependency/foster care-involved cases and provided technical assistance
  • Co-created a presentation on Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and children in the foster care and immigration systems that was presented at the statewide Beyond the Bench Conference, which brings together judges, attorneys, social workers, and other system partners to transform practice

Next Steps

Michelle will remain at Immigrant Defenders Law Center as a staff attorney. She looks forward to continuing to fight for her clients, so they are safe from deportation and can obtain permanent immigration relief. She’s excited to see all her clients thrive, succeed, and realize their dreams in the United States.

These children, who have endured so much, provide compelling testimonies of survival and redemption in spite of unimaginable trauma and pain. These are the cases that desperately need advocacy to be heard and given justice. Without legal representation, these undocumented children and youth will not have the chance to effectively explain their trauma, the context of any juvenile justice issues, and their best interests for staying in the United States. This project gives me the opportunity to advocate for them and intervene in systems that have otherwise disposed of them.

Michelle Saucedo /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Montana Legal Services Association is the only organization coordinating comprehensive, holistic civil legal services to crime victims in Montana, through its Victim Legal Assistance Network (VLAN) project. These services are outside the expertise of victim advocates and law enforcement, and there are few private attorneys available to assist. Crime victims may be unaware of their civil legal rights as they move through civil and criminal court processes. The rural and remote geography of Montana adds to a victim’s difficulty in finding timely and adequate resources. 

Katy worked with Montana Legal Service’s Victim Legal Assistance Network to provide screening and assistance with legal advice, limited scope services, representation, advocacy, support, information, and referral to crime victims in Montana. Katy also worked with the VLAN partnership members to continue to grow and nurture a strong, comprehensive and collaborative network-wide referral process to aid crime victims in accessing services. 

Katy spent the year before her Fellowship serving elderly survivors of abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation at Montana Legal Services. She was be able to use her experience with elderly crime victims to serve all ages of survivors. Montana is her home state, and she is passionate about meeting the civil legal needs of survivors in her community. 

The Project

This Fellowship focused on representing survivors of labor and sex trafficking in immigration legal matters. Noncitizen survivors of labor and sex trafficking make up an extremely vulnerable population with little access to state and federal benefits. For many survivors, a T Nonimmigrant Visa is their only hope to a full pathway to recovery, independence, and U.S. Citizenship. This Fellowship partnered with Homeland Security investigations and social services agencies like the International Rescue Committee to provide a holistic service to these survivors. Stephanie represented survivors of labor and sex trafficking in immigration legal matters. 

Stephanie is dedicated to immigrant rights. She comes from a family of immigrants from Central America, some of whom are still going through the immigration process to live in the United States. She spent the 18 months before her Fellowship working as a solo practitioner and representing detained immigrants at the Northwest Detention Center. She believes that immigrants deserve the same constitutional protections as United States citizens and wants to dedicate her career to fighting for immigrant rights. 

Fellowship

During her Fellowship, Stephanie built partnerships with a variety of agencies that can help provide legal remedies to survivors of trafficking including Homeland Security Investigations, the Department of Labor, and local state offices of Labor and Industries. She developed and conducted trainings for both legal advocates and social service providers to bring awareness on how to identify and serve survivors of human trafficking. She also provided direct representation to both detained and non-detained survivors of trafficking. 

Media

Collaborating Across the Nation, Fellows Team Up to Protect the Civil Legal Needs of the Underserved

The Equal Justice Works Fellowship Program gave me an opportunity to focus my immigration law practice on working with survivors of trafficking.

Stephanie Martinez /
2018 Equal Justice Works Fellow