Current Initiatives Under Way at Legal Aid Justice Center
The new executive orders on immigration are abhorrent. They dehumanize immigrants and refugees and make us all less safe. LAJC is taking a number of steps to help immigrants in Virginia to #Resist including our lawsuit that resulted in a (as of yet not complied with) Temporary Restraining Order preventing the deportation of Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) from Dulles International Airport as well as directing that LPRs be given access to legal counsel.
LAJC Jan 29th, 2017 Press release: LAJC informed CBP Will Comply with Order
Drive Down the Debt
In Virginia, when an individual is assessed court costs and fines, he/she has 30 days to pay in full or establish a payment plan with their local court. A debtor who fails to comply loses his/her driver’s license, seriously compromising their ability to maintain and secure employment. This consequence hurts low-income families. Our goal is to increase the amount of court costs/fees collected by Virginia courts by reducing the systemic barriers to paying those costs/fees.
RISE for Youth
Virginia’s use of large juvenile prisons places the safety and security of our communities and our young people at risk, but we have the opportunity to put youth back on track – not just behind bars. The Re-invest in Supportive Environments (RISE) for Youth campaign is a bipartisan coalition effort to develop a continuum of community-based alternatives to incarceration that will keep juvenile justice system involved youth in their homes and connected to their support networks while making our communities safer.
Educate Every Child
The Educate Every Child Campaign promotes school discipline practices and policies that keep Virginia children in school and decrease the likelihood that they will dropout and enter the justice system. The campaign is supported by the Educate Every Child Coalition, a group of interested stakeholders, including parents, teachers, counselors and advocates who support constructive alternatives to suspension and expulsion.
Unaccompanied Minor Refugees
Gang violence in Central America has become so pervasive that tens of thousands of children have risked their lives in the last year to travel, alone, to the United States seeking refuge. Typically, these children are apprehended in Texas after crossing the border. They are then connected to family or other sponsors who agree to care for the children and ensure that they show up in immigration court where a determination can be made of whether to allow them to stay or deport them. Legal Aid Justice Center, along with a cadre of other legal aid providers, is mobilizing to connect these children to attorneys who can help them to demonstrate to the court system that they ought to be allowed to stay. Without our assistance, these children would face a judge in a potentially life or death deportation hearing, alone.
Health Insurance Assistance
A lack of health insurance can be devastating to a family’s health and to their economic security. Thankfully the Affordable Care Act puts health insurance within reach for thousands of Virginians. With state and federal funding through the Virginia Poverty Law Center, Legal Aid Justice Center employs a team of Navigators, In Person Assisters, and Outreach Specialists who will focus on helping as many people as possible to access insurance through the ACA Exchange. Please click here to access this service.
Richmond Public Schools Language Access
As the result of a complaint filed by the Legal Aid Justice Center with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, the Richmond Public School division has agreed to revise and improve its policies to ensure that parents and guardians whose primary language is not English are not discriminated against and have full access to the educational process
Following a comprehensive investigation at two public special education schools, the U.S. Department of Education has found that the repeated use of physical restraint and seclusion to manage student behavior is ineffective and inappropriate. The Department’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) determined that the PACE East and PACE West schools in Prince William County, Va., routinely denied students their right to an appropriate education when they were consistently removed from classrooms and placed in a separate room
DACA Students Win In-State Tuition
Seven courageous immigrant students represented by Legal Aid Justice Center have won their effort to gain in-state tuition eligibility—not just for themselves, but for thousands of Virginia recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced on April 29th, 2014 that DACA recipients are eligible to apply for in-state tuition under existing Virginia law, as the students had argued in a lawsuit filed by the Legal Aid Justice Center last year. Legal Aid Justice Center thanks Attorney General Herring for opening the doors of educational opportunity to these deserving Virginia students.
CRHA Utilities Class Action Settlement
Public housing tenants and the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority (CRHA) reached a historic settlement in the federal class action suit filed in 2013 to challenge the failure of the CRHA to provide adequate electric utility allowances to residents. CRHA’s failure resulted in tens of thousands of dollars of overcharges to low-income Charlottesville residents.
Zombie Debt Defense
“Zombie debt” refers to debt that third-party debt collection companies’ attempts to collect despite either it being barred by statute of limitations or the companies lack proof that they have a legal right to collect on it. These companies have made a business decision to buy from creditors only the surface of the debt and not the underlying documentation really needed to ensure (and prove) the debt is owed. In many cases, the debt is not owed. Our goal is to use litigation to make the exploitative zombie debt collection business model too expensive to be profitable, thus forcing the debt collection companies to abandon their practice of suing low-income people without evidence to prove to the debt is actually owed.
Scott v. Clarke: Fluvanna Health Services Case
On July 24, 2012, the Legal Aid Justice Center, Wiley Rein LLP of Washington, D.C., and the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of five women prisoners incarcerated in the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women. The lawsuit, titled Scott v. Clarke, and filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, challenges the Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc., for failing to provide constitutionally adequate medical care. UPDATE: We have an agreement in principal on a settlement. Details here!
Fair Housing Lawsuit v City of Richmond
After over a year of trying to cooperate with the City, a group of thirty-two current and former mobile home park residents filed a fair housing lawsuit against the City of Richmond in Federal Court on August 18th, 2015. The suit alleges that the City’s code enforcement campaign against mobile home parks, which began in early 2014, has violated the civil rights of residents. According to the lawsuit, the City has subjected residents to harsh enforcement actions including unreasonable and legally unjustified repair standards. The lawsuit describes multiple attempts to resolve the safety concerns all of which were rejected by the City. Read the lawsuit here.