Joe (he/him/his) works to expand access to legal education, direct representation, and policy advocacy for working parents who face wage theft and other unlawful conditions in the workplace.
Immigrant parents and caregivers who work in low-wage industries in Los Angeles experience the highest employment violation rates in the country. Working parents and caregivers can use legal education and representation to combat their exploitation and ensure economic security for their children. A lack of representation dramatically increases the risk that parents will be fired for objecting to illegal workplace conditions. Further, undocumented parents cannot access social safety net programs and face fear of immigration-related retaliation that can cause family separation. The resulting systemic wage-theft and employment instability increases the negative academic, behavioral, and social outcomes for children of working parents.
During his Fellowship, Joe will establish a new partnership between Bet Tzedek Legal Services’ Employment Rights Project and Community Coalition (CoCo), a leading community organizing hub in South Central Los Angeles that offers youth and family enrichment programs. Joe will create a custom-tailored employment rights outreach, education, clinical, and direct representation program for parents and caregivers of children enrolled in CoCo’s youth programs. Joe will use the successes of the project to support community-driven policy advocacy efforts and develop a guide that other legal services providers and youth programs can use to broaden access to employment rights legal services for working parents.
Lawyering for community empowerment demands a practice without walls. As the great-grandchild of immigrants who sweated in garment factories to provide for their children, I am committed to meeting immigrant parents and caregivers wherever and whenever they need so we can work together toward economic security—now and for generations to come.
Joe Philipson /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Ming is using impact litigation to (1) safeguard unaccompanied immigrant children’s right to seek protection from persecution and violence and (2) ensure their prompt release from deferral detention.
The federal government has thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children in its custody. These children are fleeing dangers in their home countries and hope to join parents, relatives, or other sponsors in the United States. Due to the pandemic, it is more important than ever to ensure that the government is minimizing detention, providing adequate care, and releasing the children as quickly as possible. Furthermore, state governments have begun targeting unaccompanied children and denying them rights and access to services to which all children are entitled.
Ming is committed to protecting the rights of immigrant children because of his own experience immigrating to the United States as a child. After spending several years apart from his family during his childhood, he became the first in his family to graduate college and attend law school. Ming hopes to use his legal training to empower others who do not have access to the opportunities he and his family had.
Fellowship Highlights to Date
In the past year, Ming has:
- Obtained a classwide, preliminary injunction protecting all unaccompanied children from the Title 42 policy, allowing them to enter the U.S. and assert their legal rights
- Participated in litigation challenging fingerprint policies that hindered the prompt release of unaccompanied children
- Represented organizational and individual plaintiffs to challenge multiple federal policies denying asylum to virtually all migrants from Central and South America
- Created an internal ACLU guide for reviewing requests for exemptions from Title 42, which has been used to process thousands of exemption requests
- Negotiated and implemented a referral system through which thousands of children & adults were able to enter the U.S. notwithstanding the CDC’s order barring migrants from crossing the border
In the next year, Ming plans to:
- Continue litigating existing impact cases until the challenged policies are rescinded or vacated
- Investigate the federal government’s detention and release practices for unaccompanied children
- Examine state efforts to discriminate against unaccompanied children or interfere with their rights
- Use a combination of litigation and advocacy to address violations of unaccompanied children’s rights
The unlawful detention of children and families fleeing persecution and violence is inflicting generational harm on thousands of future Americans. Rather than compounding their trauma, we should be helping immigrants build new lives.
Ming Cheung /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Colleen strengthened legal services to veterans in Minnesota who were homeless or in crisis of becoming homeless by providing direct representation to those unable to access existing legal services, expanded outreach to female veterans, and developed multiple resources to improve the structure of the Vetlaw legal clinic program.
This Fellowship filled a gap in legal service by providing direct representation to positively motivated homeless veterans or veterans in crisis who were undeserved by current legal services partnerships and the pro bono network in Minnesota. Colleen’s Fellowship also identified and collaborated with a network of community organizations, attorneys, and advocates serving female veterans specifically. Finally, this Fellowship expanded the capabilities of MACV’s Vetlaw program by improving the structure and organization of our current legal clinics for veterans and providing brief services to veterans between legal clinics.
In the past two years, Colleen has:
- Created full representation model within a social services organization.
- Represented almost 25 veterans with family, housing, consumer, and criminal expungement cases who lacked the ability to adequately represent themselves in complex and often highly contested cases.
- Provided advice and brief services to almost 500 veterans which successfully resolved conflicts without full representation services.
- Developed multiple resources and scheduling procedures to improve the structure and organization of the Vetlaw legal clinic program.
- Where are they now?
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Colleen plans to continue working the Vetlaw program.
Maria provided immigration legal services to unaccompanied children through direct representation, enhanced local capacity among pro bono and other nonprofit partners, and established coordinated social services for unaccompanied children and families in the metro Atlanta area.
Unaccompanied children are not provided appointed legal representation, which forces children to find attorneys to help them in their immigration proceedings on their own. Those children released to sponsors in Georgia are particularly vulnerable given the scarce number of non-profit legal services in the area and because the path to obtaining legal relief is particularly challenging in Atlanta, one of the most difficult immigration court jurisdictions in the country. In addition, rapidly changing immigration policies and greatly increased immigration enforcement in the Atlanta area have heightened the vulnerabilities of these children. Compounding the legal challenges and demands these children face, unaccompanied children in Georgia also face hurdles in navigating their eligibility for social services in the area.
During the two-Fellowship period, Maria:
- Provided full representation to 37 unaccompanied children seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), asylum, T-visas, U-visas, and DACA applications
- Provided intakes and consultations to 40 unaccompanied children, including consultations via WhatsApp as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
- Trained over 150 lawyers in the Atlanta Metro Area and Northern Georgia to represent unaccompanied minors in immigration proceedings, and mentored over 50 cases placed with pro bono attorneys
- With the support of Microsoft and Fish & Richardson attorneys, created a manual to assist pro bono attorneys assisting children with seeking SIJS and asylum in Georgia
Maria continues to represent unaccompanied children as a staff attorney with KIND in Atlanta. She also uses her expertise to recruit and mentor pro bono attorneys who can represent unaccompanied children.