Photo of Mattie Armstrong

Mattie Armstrong

  • Hosted by Al Otro Lado
  • Sponsored by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
  • Service location Los Angeles, 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 prevent the detention and deportation of immigrants with criminal records in Southern California through post-conviction relief representation, county-specific advocacy, and resource development.

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 post-conviction relief (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.

Fellowship Plans

The Al Otro Lado Post-Conviction Relief (PCR) Program will be the only project providing free post-conviction relief services to immigrants of any nationality with convictions in any Southern California county, thereby preventing their mandatory detention and deportation. Through strategic expansion of PCR services in Southern California, the AOL PCR Program will develop a replicable model for implementing these powerful post-conviction relief laws in California and throughout the country. Mattie will personally litigate post-conviction relief cases and develop county-specific PCR expertise, while enlisting substantial support from pro bono attorneys to further expand PCR access. In addition, Mattie will create PCR trainings and develop resources for future PCR expansion efforts.

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

Meet Other Fellows Like Mattie

View All

Sandy Mayson

Host: Orleans Public Defenders

Sponsor: ALM

Photo of Austin Rose

Austin Rose

Host: Capital Area Immigrants' Rights Coalition

Sponsor: The Arnold & Porter Foundation

Current Fellow

Alisa Wellek

Host: Immigrant Defense Project

Sponsor: Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel

Equal Justice Works Logomark

Sarah Rose Weinman

Host: National Immigrant Justice Center

Sponsor: Baker McKenzie