Photo of Lydia Sinkus

Lydia Sinkus

  • Hosted by OneJustice
  • Sponsored by Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, PayPal
  • Service location San Francisco, California
  • Law school University of California, Berkeley School of Law
  • Issue area Immigrant Populations
  • Fellowship class year 2018
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Lydia’s project expanded access to legal services for immigrants impacted by the criminal legal system through a “clinic-plus” model leveraging pro bono resources and community partnerships.

California is home to more than 5 million noncitizen immigrants. Noncitizens with criminal records—not unlike U.S. citizens—face barriers to obtaining jobs, education, and housing. But interaction with the criminal legal system for noncitizens of any status can also result in deportation and family separation. Oftentimes, noncitizens enter a criminal plea without knowledge of the impact on immigration status. 

California law offers unique post-conviction relief opportunities that can mitigate these disproportionate and harsh immigration consequences. Attorney assistance is crucial to providing access to the due-process protections and second chances afforded by these laws. However, very few free or low-cost legal service providers offer these services. Lydia piloted her project in Northern California counties, including San Joaquin and Sonoma Counties, where the need and opportunity for this work is particularly present. 

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship period, Lydia:

  • Piloted and iterated an Immigrant Post-Conviction Relief Legal Clinic providing screening, legal advice, full-scope services, and referrals to 25 noncitizen clients impacted by the criminal legal system
  • Won a post-conviction relief motion, resulting in the termination of the client’s deportation proceedings
  • Placed and supervised five post-conviction relief cases with pro bono attorneys from her sponsor, Orrick
  • Provided brief service and referrals to 147 individuals through workshops and clinics
  • Launched two new county and state collaboratives to bring together immigration, reentry, and post-conviction relief service providers to share resources and referrals and build capacity for immigration-related post-conviction relief services
  • Created and published two toolkits containing nearly 50 unique resources to support legal services providers in expanding legal services for individuals with overlapping reentry and immigration needs

Next Steps

After completing her Fellowship, Lydia joined the Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay as an immigration removal defense attorney. At JFCS, she continues to support noncitizens impacted by the criminal legal system by providing deportation defense in collaboration with Stand Together Contra Costa.


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