Executive Director s Message

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1 Help Us Provide Equal Justice For Those Without a Voice IN THIS ISSUE... Support for Torture Victims Lawsuit Wins: Housing & Child Care Immigration Fraud Daniel Levy Award In the News UPCOMING EVENTS Long Beach Grand Cru August 20, 2011 Rainbow Lagoon Park, Long Beach, CA Access to Justice Dinner November 16, 2011 Beverly Hilton Hotel Beverly Hills, CA Executive Director s Message June/July 2011 "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" are human rights embodied in the Declaration of Independence and embraced by our country s founders. For nearly 10 years, LAFLA s Torture Survivors Project (TSP) has been at the forefront of providing legal assistance to victims of state-sponsored torture who were denied these basic human rights in their countries of origin. Based on government data on refugee flows, almost 100,000 torture survivors are believed to reside in California, and many live right here in Los Angeles. Survivors often endure posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, nightmares, chronic pain, and other long-term effects. Moreover, these effects continue to reverberate within future generations: Children and grandchildren of torture survivors face increased risks of school failure, family violence, learning problems, and mental health disorders. Broken and traumatized, victims of torture and their families come to the United States at their darkest hour seeking safety and a better future. Day in and day out, LAFLA s TSP attorneys, advocates and social workers assist refugees in obtaining asylum; get public benefits and housing; access social services they need to heal their physical and mental wounds; help reunite families, and ultimately achieve the dream of U.S. citizenship. The TSP also conducts outreach in key ethnic communities with large populations from countries where torture is commonly committed, including Cambodia, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Guatemala, Iran, Iraq and Kenya. June 26th marked the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, commemorating the 24 th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Religious and human rights organizations in the United States and around the world have declared June to be Torture Awareness Month to give greater visibility to an issue that affects so many around the globe and in our own communities. Coincidentally, earlier this week, California Legislature s passed Senate Joint Resolution 6. This measure would declare June 26, 2011, a Day in Support of Victims of Torture in California, and would urge the Office of Refugee Resettlement to direct torture treatment funding through the Torture Victims Relief Act of 1998, so as to reflect California s role as the nation s largest resettlement destination for torture survivors. In this spirit, I would like to introduce you to three TSP clients: Ada, an Iraqi refugee; Priya, a Bangladeshi immigrant; and Mary, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. Their stories of perseverance and survival give us hope and provide living testaments to the resilience of the human spirit. Read Their Stories

2 Silvia R. Argueta, Executive Director A R T I C Children of Torture Survivors Given Voice By Daliah Setareh, Immigration Attorney Become a Fan Funding Sources We are funded by the Legal Services Corporation, the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, private foundations, and through the generous support of lawyers, corporations and people like you. On Saturday, June 25th, LAFLA held its 6th Commemoration of the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, honoring and supporting victims and survivors of torture from around the world. Wanting to give a voice to the children who are living with the effects of torture in their daily lives, LAFLA s Torture Survivors Project planned a Children s Theater Workshop to allow some of our clients children to express themselves through the magic of theater. LAFLA was honored to have Tana Waldren, who has a degree in Community Theater and many years of experience leading children s theater workshops, design a space for the children to experience something different, joyful and creative. The event brought together the children of LAFLA clients from around the world including Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, along with the children of LAFLA s advocates. The children designed a storyline using the characters and costumes they created, culminating in a performance for their parents and younger siblings. The storyline involved leaving a known place, journeying to a new place, and making a new home and life. The storyteller at one point proclaimed, "and as they entered a new land and met new people, they discovered that the people there were mirror images of themselves," while the children partnered up and mimicked each other s movements. The event was made possible by volunteers and generous contributions of local businesses and private donors. In the end, the parents were proud of their children s remarkably deep, yet playful, depiction of life. The children had fun and LAFLA staff and volunteers felt enriched by partaking in an event with such resilient and inspiring youngsters. State Senator Recognizes Client Board Member Martha Jimenez, chair of LAFLA s Client Council Advisory Board in East Los Angeles, was named Woman of the Year by Senator Ed Hernandez, 24th District, for the promotion of the U.S. Citizenship Campaigns in the City of Los Angeles and LA County. LAFLA Responds to Federal Initiative to Stop Immigration Fraud The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) applauds the efforts by federal officials to combat the epidemic of schemes that defraud helpless immigrants. LAFLA s immigration attorneys have been fighting to protect the rights of individuals and families for over 20 years by representing torture survivors, victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, and other

3 by representing torture survivors, victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, and other serious crimes. Too often we see families fall into the hands of scam artists who prey on immigrant communities with false promises of a "green card" or work permit. Immigrants who are simply seeking legal avenues to obtain lawful status are bilked out of thousands of dollars and often end up in deportation proceedings as a result of these scams. Unfortunately, the current immigration system makes it easier for the scam artists to continue their operations since it moves to deport the very people who need protection and could serve as witnesses to put the scam artists out of business. With this initiative, we hoped to see recognition of immigration fraud as a qualifying crime worthy of protection under the current immigration law that protects victims of serious crimes. To read about the DOJ Initiative click here. Housing Advocates Win Big for Disabled Client On June 30, 2011, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant granted an administrative writ of mandate in Finley v. City of Santa Monica, ruling that the Santa Monica Housing Authority (SMHA) incorrectly increased a disabled, Section 8 housing voucher program participant s monthly share of rent, by counting toward her annual income, thirdparty distributions of principal from her Special Needs Trust (SNT), an irrevocable trust created with a lump-sum personal injury settlement award. Sheila Finley, a low-income, 64- year-old Santa Monica tenant with disabilities who participates in the federally subsidized Housing Choice Voucher program was represented by LAFLA Attorney Denise McGranahan and the Western Center on Law & Poverty. The judge also granted Finley s petition for traditional writ of mandate, and compelled the SMHA to correct its interpretation of the applicable HUD regulations and the Administrative Plan. The decision was hailed by public interest attorneys, and is a long-awaited interpretation of complex federal regulations, which will likely have a national impact. Read More Immigration Unit Holds Trainings Coinciding with the federal initiative to combat legal fraud in immigration services, LAFLA staff organized and hosted two separate trainings around this issue. LAFLA Attorney Michelle Carey provides training on unlawful practice of immigration law. Violence Against Women Act Training On June 16, 2011 LAFLA hosted the Second Annual LA Violence Against Women s Act (VAWA) Network U-certifier meeting. The LA VAWA Network is a coalition of non-profit organizations providing immigration services to low-income survivors of domestic violence and other crimes throughout Los Angeles County. Approximately 70 people representing

4 and other crimes throughout Los Angeles County. Approximately 70 people representing both law enforcement agencies and NGOs attended. Presentations were made by representative members from different branches of law enforcement regarding best practices in submitting U-visa certification requests to their respective offices. Los Angeles Asylum Collaborative Training LAFLA also hosted a community-wide training at its bi-monthly meeting of the Los Angeles Asylum Collaborative on June 17, The Los Angeles Asylum Collaborative is an informal network of NGOs from the Greater Los Angeles area providing services to asylum seekers, asylees and refugees. At this meeting, Rigoberto Reyes, Acting Director of the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) of the County of Los Angeles, joined LAFLA s General Counsel Toby Rothschild in an afternoon-long discussion on the Unlawful Practice of Immigration Law. While Mr. Rothschild covered the important ethical issues and responsibilities behind the lawful practice of law, Mr. Reyes described DCA s Consumer Protection Model and the services available to consumers who are victims of immigration services fraud in Los Angeles County. Joint Lawsuit Achieves Major Court Settlement to Restore Child Care Ending a six-month court case sparked by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger s elimination of vital child care funding, the State of California agreed on June 22nd to a court settlement that ensures working families will continue to have assistance. The groundbreaking settlement preserves child care services for parents who have successfully transitioned off welfare but whose wages are still too low to cover child care. The settlement affects the families of more than 56,000 California children who had been told they would lose their child care last October. The state budget passed last Tuesday maintains funding for child care subsidies won back through the court settlement, but at a reduced level of funding. The lawsuit was brought by LAFLA, Public Interest Law Project, the Child Care Law Center, Western Center on Law & Poverty, Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County and Public Counsel Law Center. "This settlement allows our clients to continue working without worrying about how to pay for child care. No one should have to choose between going to work and making sure their children are cared for," explained LAFLA s Government Benefits Attorney Dana Schumacher. The settlement agreement, signed by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Wynne Carvill provides an opportunity for parents who lost Stage 3 child care to come back onto the program now. Read More Directing Attorney Michael Ortiz Receives Daniel Levy Memorial Award Michael J. Ortiz, Directing Attorney for LAFLA s Immigration Unit was presented with the 2011 Daniel Levy Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Immigration Law. Michael has been directing the work of LAFLA s Immigration Unit for more than 20 years, during which his commitment and focus to serving low-income immigrants has never wavered.

5 (L-R) Daniel Kowalski, attorney and Bender s Immigration Daily Bulletin Editor; Directing Attorney Michael Ortiz; LAFLA Paralegal Gloria Perez; and LAFLA Senior International Human Rights Analyst, Torture Survivors Project, Carolina Sheinfeld. In the News Senior Immigration Attorney Nancy Reyes-Rubi was interviewed on June 27 for "Voice of America s Desde Washington" on the subject of human trafficking. On June 1, LAFLA Board Member Gary Blasi was featured in an article in the "California Lawyer" titled, The Path Rarely Taken. Toby Rothschild s award announcement appeared in the June 13 issue of "Metropolitan News." CED Attorney Zahirah Washington was quoted in an article titled, Los Angeles Coalition Wins Health Clinic and Jobs from Developer in the June issue of "Race, Poverty & the Environment." Contact/Find Us Site Map Job Opportunities Annual Report 2011 Legal Aid Foundation Los Angeles You are receiving this because you or your firm supports LAFLA.

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