Photo of Mattie Armstrong

Mattie Armstrong

  • Hosted by Dolores Street Community Services
  • Sponsored by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
  • Service location San Francisco, California
  • Law school University of California, Berkeley School of Law
  • Issue area Criminal Justice Reform, Immigrant Populations
  • Fellowship class year 2021
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Mattie (she/her/hers) will work to establish the Anti-Criminalization Project at Dolores Street Community Services that will fight the criminalization of immigrants by providing post-conviction relief (PCR) and immigration representation, while also engaging in state and local policy advocacy, working on federal litigation, and preparing resources to help expand access to services for criminalized immigrants and immigrants particularly vulnerable to criminalization.

Each year, countless immigrants are detained and deported from Southern California as a direct result of criminal convictions. Under current immigration law, any noncitizen, even a long-time green card holder with a U.S. citizen spouse and child, can be rendered deportable due to a single misdemeanor conviction. In a criminal system in which 98% of criminal defendants plead guilty, many immigrants agree to convictions without meaningfully understanding the severe consequences they will have for their immigration status. To address these legally invalid convictions, California has created PCR vehicles to vacate these criminal convictions, but access to PCR remains extremely limited in Southern California, where 4.5 million immigrants reside. 

Mattie has seen firsthand the suffering that ensues when an immigrant is subjected to mandatory detention and deportation as a result of contact with an unjust criminal system. She believes more must be done to prevent this devastation to families and communities in California.

Post-conviction relief is one of the most powerful ways to prevent the disproportionate harm a criminal conviction can have on an immigrant’s life and community

Mattie Armstrong /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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