Our Stories

Mixed Status Family Pursuing the American Dream

A “mixed-status family” is a family whose members include different citizenship or immigration status.  This story is about a mixed-status family, the Rojas-Roldans, who La Raza Centro Legal is assisting in their immigration matters.  The Rojas-Roldan family is comprised of a U.S. citizen child, a Deferred Action recipient adult child, and undocumented parents who are DAPA eligible.  They are the image of what immigrant families look like nowadays.  Furthermore, they are an example of people coming to this country to have a chance to pursue the “American Dream.” As is common with immigrant families, the conditions in one’s home country are not safe and these conditions often force families to flee and find safety in another country.  Whether it was being surrounded by criminal activity, gangs, or drug trafficking, Monica knew it was not a place to raise her family or become productive citizens.  Rather, it had become a place where you were lucky if you could escape harm or, even worse, death. As a result, Monica made the difficult decision to immigrate to the United States from Mexico with her 9 year old son Kevin in 2004.   As with all new arrivals, it was a struggle to live in the United States undocumented.  Not only is it difficult to find housing, but it’s hard to find employment and a school to send your child. At first they lived in Oakland, California, but quickly found a place to stay in San Francisco and made their home in the Tenderloin District.  Soon, Monica and her husband found work and Kevin was in school.  In March 2011, the Rojas-Roldan family grew –...

Together, We Can!

We are committed to using the power of the law to address injustice and solve problems affecting those who lack equal access to the legal system……. Read More “Together, We...

Know Your Rights–Eviction Under “Owner Move In”

Desalojo de inquilinos para que el propietario se mude a la vivienda (Spanish Version) Evicting a Tenant Under “Owner Move In” English Version Evicting a Tenant Under “Owner Move In” There are 16 just causes to evict a tenant in San Francisco. Among them, the “owner move in” or “OMI” is a well-known cause for eviction in San Francisco nowadays. It is defined as an eviction where an owner of a unit who does not own another property in the City seeks to recover possession for himself or relative to move in, “without ulterior motive and with honest intent.” Owners may evict for a family member such as a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling or the owner’s spouse or the spouse of such relations. The term “spouse” includes domestic partners. However, owners who evict for family members to move in must already live in the building or be moving into the building at the same time as the relative. In buildings of two or more units, there are several conditions that give a tenant protected status so that he/she cannot be evicted for either the owner or the owner’s relative to move in. If you are 60 years old or older and have lived in the unit for more than 10 years, you are protected.  If you are disabled under the Social Security Disability rules—which consider a person disabled if (a) she/he cannot perform the kind of work that he/she did before, (b) Social Security decides that he/she cannot be adjusted to other work because of his/her medical condition, and (c) her/his disability has lasted or is expected to...

A Dream Come True

Candelario Melendez came to the United States as a political asylee from El Salvador, Central America.  Candelario was born and grew up in the Canton of San Francisco, department of San Vicente, El Salvador.  “Don Cande” as his friends and colleagues lovingly call him has always made it his mission to help people and be of service to the community.  Don Cande took pride in being a community organizer and still does this work today. As the civil war erupted in El Salvador in 1979-1980, Candelario became more involved with his community.  Don Cande worked to help protect his canton from the guerillas and the military that were trying to recruit people to fight for their side.  But after having his house shot, although no one was hurt, he and his family decided to move to a nearby town of Verapaz.  They all believed the town was bigger and safer than his small canton.  But the civil war hostilities increased and Don Cande found himself organizing again to protect the community.  Because of his work he began receiving death threats. In 1986 Don Cande received a threat from the guerillas on his doorstep.  The note stated he was an enemy of the revolution and would be punished by the people unless he stopped working as a community organizer.   Don Cande realized he had to be very careful because his life and that of his family was at risk.  His brother had already been murdered by guerillas when defending his town as a member of a civil defense group.  But this did not stop Don Cande from being of service...

We are committed to protect and provide much needed legal representation to unaccompanied minors and families facing deportation!

Our Immigration Law Program’s new Immigration Law Attorney Mina Litvak with the assistance of law student Legal Intern Alexandra Medina have been working with unaccompanied children and families who recently arrived from Central America and are currently in deportation proceedings.  The courage of the children and families has been tremendous.  One mother fled with her young son whose life had been threatened by gang violence leaving behind her husband and other children.  Under current case law, the gang violence cases are not always considered asylum cases. However, our Immigration Law Program is working to show asylum including showing the entire family is targeted.  Many women fleeing domestic violence have come with their children.  Our Immigration Law Program is representing these women in asylum cases showing the great abuse endured. A 15 year old boy made the journey alone and describes how coyotes threatened him with death if he didn’t pay extra money beyond the agreed amount his parents had paid.  After crossing a river the coyotes left his group and he was forced to run in the desert leading a group of women and children.  Still worse were the cramped conditions he described in the immigration holding facilities.  “We were like 50 people in a room of about two meters wide and four meters long. It was really hard not being able to sleep.”  The greatest challenge has been those children and families whose lives are in danger because they have been threatened to be killed or harmed due to gang violence.  Some of the children who made the journey alone remain alone in the U.S. and some are...

Housing Law Program secures over $100,000 in settlements during the first quarter of the year!

Since December 2014 La Raza Centro Legal’s new Housing Law Program led by attorney Judith Gallardo has assisted dozens of San Francisco residents in need of legal advice regarding their housing rights. Gentrification, the influx of high-income dwellers into low-income neighborhoods, has become a serious cause of concern in San Francisco. Through legal representation, the Housing Law Program prevents low income tenants from becoming homeless. Since December, the Housing Law Program has ensured that numerous families stay in their home. In addition, the program has assisted numerous families settle a reasonable move out date and moving expenses. During the first quarter of the year, the total combined settlement amount for those families is more than $100,000.00. Further, the Housing Law Program has also assisted clients that choose to participate in Buy Out Agreements.  One of our clients is to receive $15,000.00 for his voluntary termination of a rent controlled tenancy. The Housing Law Program will continue to assist and represents low income tenants against eviction, thereby, preventing homelessness. La Raza Centro Legal’s Housing Law Program prides itself in working powerfully with clients to resolve tenant landlord disputes in the most professional and peaceful manner possible to ensure the most effective legal representation...

The Workers’ Rights Program protects workers from inhumane treatment and vigorously enforces laws to protect their rights!

During the first quarter of the year, La Raza Centro Legal’s Workers’ Rights Program has  assisted hundreds of low-wage, immigrant workers in obtaining recoveries of unlawfully unpaid wages totaling approximately $500,000! Recently, the program vigorously enforced laws to protect the rights of two workers. Laborers of a local moving company were not provided meal or rest periods and did not receive overtime pay for their twelve hour work days.  The workers also tolerated harassment and abuse.  Although they worked well, they were yelled at and humiliated. The final mistreatment was the unfair termination of employment after several years of tireless work benefiting the success of the company. Throughout the employment, one of the workers had to pawn all of his most important jewelry because the company was not paying all wages due. This meant he lost his wedding ring, gifts from his family and anything of value he had so that he could pay rent and eat.  After he lost his job, he had lost all hope of ever getting back is valuables. La Raza Centro Legal’s Workers’ Rights Program filed claims on their behalf of the workers for thousands of overtime hours as well as meal and rest break compensation. At first, the employer barely acknowledged that he had employed the workers even though they had been loyal employees for several years. Once the process began, employer understood that no one was backing down and slowly moved towards a resolution. The workers were finally compensated for their dedication and hard work and one of the workers was able to reclaim his beloved articles. *Client names have not been released...

Unaccompanied Minors: A Grim Reality

Unaccompanied Minors– A Grim Reality  By La Raza Centro Legal’s Immigration Law Attorney, Amanda Alvarado-Ford. Imagine you are the parent of three teenagers under the age of 18. You live in an urban city in a Central American country, in a neighborhood notorious for illegal gang activity.  Residents and business owners are routinely extorted by young male gang members for weekly payments of “rent” – the nonpayment of which will result in threats of immediate bodily harm to your loved ones. You do not doubt that these threats will come to fruition. As a small business owner, you make your installments regularly.  After two years of payments to the organization, one of your teenage boys is on his way home and gets robbed at knife-point, his identity documents and cash taken and never recovered. Shortly thereafter, you receive a call from a gang member. You are instructed to go with the gang member who is en route to your house, to accompany him to the police station to act as the “mother” of the gangster who stole your son’s identity. That juvenile is being prosecuted for a violent crime he, not your actual son, committed. Under local law, a youth accused of such a crime may only be released on bail into the custody of a parent. Two gang members show up on your porch, one that stays there with a concealed weapon, and another who holds your three teenagers hostage in your own living room as you are taken to a taxi.  From there, a third gang member takes you at gunpoint to the police station, and instructs...

Displaced Tenants Learn About Their Right to Return

Our Housing Law Program Attorney, Judith Gallardo and Tenants’ Rights Activists inform Displaced Fire Victim Tenants about their “Right to Return” Victims of the fires in both the Mission and the Tenderloin gathered in a conference room at City College’s Mission campus last night and were told that tenants displaced by a fire have the “right to return,” meaning that once the damaged units are repaired, the tenants must be notified within 30 days and must be offered the opportunity to move back in to their units at their former rent. After notice is given, tenants have 45 days to accept or decline the offer to return. Read...

Warm Greetings From La Raza Centro Legal

A message from our Executive Director, Genevie Gallegos.  Extraordinary issues including, unaccompanied children fleeing the terrors of their countries, the recent Executive Action benefiting many, San Francisco gentrification and Ellis Act evictions, have caused a great increase in the number of families and individuals seeking our support.  It is only because of truly phenomenal funder partnerships unique to the San Francisco Bay Area that we are able to increase our capacity to provide additional legal services to the most vulnerable who would not otherwise have access to legal representation.  We will soon increase our capacity by 20% . Recently, Mayor Edwin Lee committed City support to ensure resources to those who will receive legal status under the President Obama’s recent Executive Action. In October 2014 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the incredible resolution, introduced by Supervisor David Campos, providing for legal representation to the thousands of children and those with their family fleeing violence and poverty from their countries. In September 2014, the City of San Francisco ensured legal representation funding to the many being displaced by evictions, including those under the Ellis Act. The City of San Francisco’s extraordinary support will soon allow us to increase our staffing by 22%.  Further, our programs and infrastructure continue to strengthen thanks to our partnerships with the San Francisco Foundation, van Löben Sels/RembeRock Foundation, Atkinson Foundation, California Bar Foundation,Morrison & Foerster Foundation, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Foundation,CRISP Collaborative (Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Grove Foundation), State Bar of California (IOLTA and EAF funding), Mission Promise Neighborhood partnership (U.S. Department of  Education funding to ensure family stability) and our...