Jason Ortega

The Project

Jason provided legal representation and outreach to undocumented LGBT persons facing persecution and torture, and seeking protection under asylum, withholding of removal, and the Convention Against Torture.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project

Currently, 78 countries criminalize homosexuality. Elsewhere, country reports tell of rape, beatings, and the murder of LGBT persons by police and private citizens alike. Fearing for their safety, many LGBT refugees flee to the United States. Unaware of the protections available and unable to find assistance, they fail to apply for asylum in time. As a result, LGBT persons are deported back to countries where they are subsequently persecuted, in some cases by police officers and within days of their return.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Jason has:
• Provided full representation in seeking asylum (or related persecution and torture protections) in both affirmative interviews and defensive court proceedings for over 40 individual clients
• Provided technical support and training to pro bono attorneys to increase the number of advocates and collective knowledge of these issues
• Presented to over 400 people about violence experienced by immigrant clients accessing non-legal services

Where are they now?

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Jason will:

• Work with the Los Angeles LGBT Center to apply for grant funding to continue this important work

• Continue to advocate for LGBT communities seeking asylum and other forms of relief from the persecution they face in their home countries

The Project

Kena worked to ensure disadvantaged unincorporated communities in California’s Central Valley had equitable access to safe water and other basic municipal services through advocacy, litigation, and public education.

Californians in Fresno, Madera, and Merced counties lack reliable access to basic municipal services including safe, affordable water. This problem is particularly acute for residents of the counties’ 200 disadvantaged unincorporated communities—totaling 300,000 residents, and primarily comprised of low-income immigrants and people of color—where many residents live on less than $34,000 a year and devote up to 20 percent of their annual income to buy bottled water. The consequences are dire: disadvantaged community residents face higher rates of health complications and food insecurity, decreased educational opportunities, and ultimately fall deeper into poverty.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Kena has:

  • Secured statewide translations of water quality reports provided to the public, allowing greater access to information for limited English proficient populations throughout the state of California;
  • Provided public comment to the State Water Board, which lead to the establishment of health protective standards for a carcinogenic chemical known as 123 TCP;
  • With sponsor pro bono support, developed training materials and workshop information to empower communities to advocate on behalf of themselves on water and sanitation infrastructure issues;
  • Collaborated with 18 community groups and organizations;
  • Conducted survey of resident needs, and helped developed a new community group in an unincorporated community in Fresno County;
  • With sponsor pro bono support, researched and published a report about the Human Right to Water in California;
  • Laid groundwork for relevant impact litigation work following conclusion of Fellowship.

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Kena plans to continue working on racial and economic justice issues.