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DATE: August 27, 2019
Media Contacts:
Kathleen Corcoran

Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg
(703) 778-3450

The Legal Aid Justice Center and George Masin University’s Antonin Scalia Law School Announce New Immigration Clinic

Arlington, VA — The Legal Aid Justice Center (LACJ) today announced a new immigration litigation clinic at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School. The clinic, which launches this fall offers students the opportunity to gain translatable skills and valuable perspectives on immigration law, specifically the deportation process and habeas corpus litigation.

The Immigration Litigation Clinic director is Becky Wolozin, a graduate of Harvard Law School, who started her career at LAJC in the JustChildren program, focusing on the intersection of child advocacy and immigration.

“I am thrilled this clinic will be offered at Scalia Law School.  Clinical work represents such a formative experience in law school, and it is an honor and a pleasure to be a part of that for young law students at the beginning of their legal careers,” said Ms. Wolozin.  “Not only will the students in this clinic get incredible legal experience, they will also gain important and profound human experience helping those fighting for the right to exist and to be together with their families.”

Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, the Legal Director of the Immigrant Advocacy program at LAJC and co-teacher of the clinic, said “Through this clinic, law students will have the opportunity to represent clients, hone their litigation skills, learn a complicated area of law, and have an impact on some of the most important issues affecting millions of people across the nation.”

This clinic is made possible through a gift from Leonard A. Bennett, a 1989 graduate of George Mason University and a 1994 graduate of the George Mason School of Law.  A trial attorney and consumer advocate since 1994, Bennett works for Consumer Litigation Associates in Newport News, Virginia, and is often quoted in the New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.

“I am so grateful to Len Bennett for his generous gift, making the new Immigration Litigation Clinic possible, said Dean Henry N. Butler.  “Len’s philanthropy will profoundly impact our students and the clients they serve.”

“I also want to thank the Legal Aid Justice Center for partnering with Scalia Law to give our students first-hand experience advocating for immigrant families.  We are proud to educate students who will become lawyer committed to justice for all,” Dean Butler concluded.

About George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School
In July 2016, the George Mason University School of Law was renamed Antonin Scalia Law School in honor of the late Supreme Court Justice.  Scalia Law is renowned for its academic emphasis on the the intersection of law and economics, with some of the nation’s top law and economic scholars on the faculty.  National Jurist ranks Scalia Law as a Top 20 Law School for students pursuing careers in government.  A relatively young law school, Scalia Law School has been ranked a US News Top 50 Law School for 18 years, and recently ranked #4 for its part-time program.  Scalia Law School is ranked #19 by Shanghai’s Global Rankings for Law.  National Jurist ranks Washington DC, across the Potomac from Scalia Law School, the best city in the nation for young attorneys.

About the Legal Aid Justice Center
The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty.  LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, workers’ rights, immigration, healthcare and consumer finance.  LAJC also offers clinics at the University of Virginia Law School and the University of Richmond Law School.

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For Immediate Release

LAJC Commends Attorney General Herring’s Decision 

Charlottesville, Virginia (August 2, 2019) – The Legal Aid Justice Center commends Attorney General Herring for his decision today accepting the Fourth Circuit’s ruling regarding invalidating Virginia’s “habitual drunkard” regime.  

“We look forward to working with Virginia to implement constructive programs to address homelessness and addiction in our state, such as expanding Housing First and Addiction Recovery Treatment Services.  We also express our deep appreciation for our pro bono partner and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty for their indispensable assistance on this critical matter,” said Elaine Poon of the Legal Aid Justice Center.

“We are thrilled that Attorney General Herring has let the court decision striking down this antiquated law stand,” said Eric Tars, Legal Director at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, which filed an amicus brief in the case. “We can all agree that no one wants to see homeless people with alcoholism on the streets, but law enforcement and public health experts agree that housing, not handcuffs, is the best, most cost-effective way of making that happen. While we celebrate today’s advancement, we look forward to working with Virginia’s legislature and executive to put those housing solutions in place-the true victory will come when all those who need housing have it.”



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Rachael Deane
Legal Director, JustChildren Program, Legal Aid Justice Center
804-873-0783 |

LAJC Applauds Virginia Board of Education Ban on Prone Restraints in Schools

Richmond, Virginia (July 26, 2019) – The Legal Aid Justice Center applauds the Virginia Board of Education’s vote to ban prone (face-down) restraint, a life-threatening practice that has no place in our schools. The ban is part of a broader set of regulations governing the use of seclusion and restraint in Virginia’s public schools, which will now head to the Governor for final approval.

“Too many children have been subjected to fear and trauma caused by prone restraints; some have been injured or killed,” said Rachael Deane, Legal Director of LAJC’s JustChildren Program. “We are pleased the Board has recognized the dangerousness of these restraints and urge the Governor to sign the regulations so that our schools will be on notice that these restraints are dangerous, unnecessary, and unlawful.”

The Board’s vote was a change to its previous position that an explicit ban was not necessary to comply with federal guidelines called the Fifteen Principles, which state, in part, that “prone (i.e., lying face down) restraints or other restraints that restrict breathing should never be used because they can cause serious injury or death.” Hundreds of parents and advocates wrote letters and public comments throughout the spring to urge the Board to include an explicit ban on prone restraint in the regulations. In February, the General Assembly passed legislation, subsequently signed into law by Gov. Northam, requiring the Board to identify and prohibit methods of seclusion and restraint that pose “a significant danger to students.” Testimony on the bill by parents, advocates, and a bipartisan group of legislators made clear that prone restraints posed exactly such a danger. In March, dozens of parents testified about the dangerousness of prone restraint at a public hearing on the proposed regulations, many of them sharing personal stories of the injury, pain, and trauma caused to their children by restraint and seclusion in schools. Advocates including these parents have sought this critical reform at each stage of the regulatory process, and now is the time for Governor Northam to validate the evidence and lived experiences of children and families driving these reforms by signing the regulations into law.

Schools have disproportionately used restraint and seclusion against students with disabilities and students of color, and recent news stories across Virginia have highlighted disturbing reporting discrepancies about the use of the practices. The regulations passed by the Board yesterday also include robust parental notification and data reporting requirements, though more work remains to be done to ensure that all forms of seclusion and restraint are completely banned in Virginia.


You can download a PDF of this press release here.

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Elaine Poon, Managing Attorney


CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA, July 16, 2019 — Today in Manning v. Caldwell, the Fourth Circuit, sitting en banc, struck down Virginia’s statutory scheme that permitted the state to interdict and prosecute people as “habitual drunkards”—a practice that unjustly targets Virginians with alcoholism who are also homeless. The Legal Aid Justice Center and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP brought this challenge on behalf of several Plaintiffs arguing that the statute singles them out for incarceration based on their disease and their homeless status in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Fourth Circuit agreed.

The Court ruled that the term “habitual drunkard” is unconstitutionally vague under the due process clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. It found that the statute failed to provide fair notice to the public, “imposing criminal penalties on an untold number of chronically ill citizens.” The Court agreed that such vague language in a criminal statute invited arbitrary enforcement and allows for the state to “target persons, including the homeless, that state officials deem undesirable.”

Further, the Court agreed with Plaintiffs’ Eighth Amendment challenge, affirming a central Constitutional value that one cannot be punished for who they are rather than what they have done. The Court stated, “What the Eighth Amendment cannot tolerate is the targeted criminalization of otherwise legal behavior that is an involuntary manifestation of an illness.”

The Legal Aid Justice Center applauded this landmark decision by the Court. “It is clear that the Court understood the heart of the issues — that the Constitution cannot allow for the criminalization of illness and homelessness. We look forward to telling our clients about this victory, so that they can pursue their lives without the constant fear of arrest and prosecution,” said Elaine Poon of the Legal Aid Justice Center.

“We are thrilled the majority in the 4th Circuit agreed with the position in our amicus, and the one affirmed in the 9th Circuit’s decision in Martin v. Boise, that it is cruel and unusual to punish homeless individuals for involuntary conduct that must take place in public because they do not have an adequate alternative,” said Eric Tars, legal director at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. “Virginia’s cities, and other cities in the 4th Circuit, should take heed that if they want to reduce the negative impacts of homelessness on their community, the most effective, most cost-effective, and most constitutional way to do so is providing adequate housing and services. Using the criminal justice system to deal with a social service failure is not an option.”

Jonathan Marcus of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP argued the case and stated, “we applaud the Court of Appeals’ decision that Virginia’s habitual drunkard regime is unconstitutional. It is an important victory for those who suffer from the illness of alcoholism. We look forward to the development of humane and constructive solutions to the serious problems of homelessness and alcoholism that are called for by this decision.

4th Circuit Rehearing Opinion (PDF)

In March 2016, the Legal Aid Justice Center of Virginia (LAJC) and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP filed a class action lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s “habitual drunkard” statute, to the extent it criminalizes the possession or consumption of alcohol by homeless individuals suffering from alcoholism. The complaint asserts that Commonwealth’s Attorneys Offices across Virginia have used the state’s outdated “habitual drunkard” statute, or Interdiction Statute (Va. Code §§ 4.1,-305, 4.1-322, and 4.1-333), to repeatedly incarcerate homeless individuals, violating their constitutional rights by punishing homeless alcoholics for having the disease of alcoholism. It also violates their right to due process by criminalizing the possession or consumption of alcohol—an otherwise lawful activity—without required constitutional protections. The complaint also challenges the statute as unconstitutionally vague because it fails to define “habitual drunkard” and encourages arbitrary police enforcement. Virginia’s antiquated interdiction law imposes penalties far beyond the state law prohibiting public intoxication, which results in only a small fine. The Interdiction Statute, by contrast, allows a Commonwealth’s attorney to petition the circuit court to declare someone a “habitual drunkard.” Once given this stigmatizing label, that person is subject to up to a year in jail if caught simply possessing alcohol.
About the Legal Aid Justice Center

The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty. LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, workers’ rights, immigration, healthcare and consumer finance. LAJC’s primary service areas are Charlottesville, Northern Virginia, Richmond and Petersburg, but the effects of their work are felt statewide.

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WHAT: Are you outraged at the recent reports of abuses and deaths of immigrant children detained in President Trump’s camps and looking for a way to fight back?  Come join us at our Rally to Protect Immigrant Children where we will demand that this administration provide safe and sanitary housing and care for all immigrants detained by DHS, respect the Flores Decree, and stop the devastating family separations.  Come out and make your voice heard in defense of immigrants’ rights.  These children need all of us to act.  We must not remain silent.

WHEN: Tuesday, July 2nd from 10:00 am to 11:00 am

WHERE: 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004 (Outside U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
For more information, please contact

Organized by: Centreville Immigration Forum (CIF), International Mayan League, Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC), and Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO).

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June 28, 2019

Contact:  Angela Ciolfi, Executive Director


Charlottesville, VA—Today, Judge Norman Moon of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia issued an opinion in Stinnie v. Holcomb, a lawsuit filed in 2016 by the Legal Aid Justice Center and McGuireWoods LLP challenging the constitutionality of Virginia’s law automatically suspending driver’s licenses for failure to pay court costs and fines.

Judge Moon denied DMV Commissioner Richard Holcomb and Attorney General Mark Herring’s request to dismiss the case.  The Attorney General had argued that the one-year freeze of court debt driver’s license suspensions created by the budget amendment—which takes effect July 1, 2019, and expires July 1, 2020—should end the case.

Judge Moon rejected that argument, finding “although the Budget Amendment may indeed reflect shifting political winds … future enforcement of [the court debt driver’s suspension law] remains reasonably possible such that this case is not moot …” The Court refused to dismiss the case based on the “hypothetical and speculative” facts offered by the Commissioner.  

However, Judge Moon decided to stay, or postpone, trial in the Stinnie case to give the General Assembly a chance to pass a permanent fix during the current one-year freeze.

“The Plaintiffs would have preferred to have their day in court this August and end this civil rights crisis permanently,” said Angela Ciolfi, Executive Director of the Legal Aid Justice Center. “But if the Commonwealth will not take responsibility for decades of violating people’s constitutional rights, we will continue to fight in the General Assembly to fix it for the future.”

The Plaintiffs, the Legal Aid Justice Center, McGuireWoods LLP, and their pro bono partners remain committed to ending the injustice of court debt driver’s license suspensions in Virginia. It is unfair, counterproductive, and unconstitutional.  It punishes the poor, and it must end. 

Stinnie v. Holcomb is a putative class action lawsuit, filed by Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) and McGuireWoods LLP, challenging the constitutionality of Virginia’s statute automatically suspending the driver’s licenses of nearly one million Virginia drivers who cannot afford to pay court costs and fines. The case was originally dismissed at the District Court, but it was revived by the Fourth Circuit last year when the appeals court allowed plaintiffs to amend their complaint. When LAJC filed the amended complaint, they also asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction, which would have the effect of ordering the DMV Commissioner to stop suspending driver’s licenses for non-payment of court debt while the lawsuit is pending.  On November 15, 2018, Judge Moon took evidence and heard arguments for and against the preliminary injunction.  On December 21, 2018 Judge Moon granted the preliminary injunction finding the driver’s license suspension statute likely unconstitutional and ordering the DMV Commissioner to reinstate Plaintiffs’ licenses while litigation proceeds. The Court also rejected the Commissioner’s arguments that the federal court lacked jurisdiction. The case had been set for trial in August 2019.  Today’s decision has the effect of postponing the trial until next year, to permit Virginia’s General Assembly to repeal Virginia’s court debt license suspension law.  

To download a copy of today’s opinion, go to

To read more about the effect of the budget amendment, go to

To read more about the lawsuit, or to download the briefs, go to

About the Legal Aid Justice Center
The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty. LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, workers’ rights, immigration, healthcare and consumer finance. LAJC’s primary service areas are Charlottesville, Northern Virginia, Richmond and Petersburg, but the effects of their work are felt statewide.

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Know Your Rights Training in Case of ICE Raids for Service Providers

WHAT: The Legal Aid Justice Center is organizing a “Know your Rights” presentation for service providers in Northern Virginia in response to a recent announcement of large-scale ICE raids in the DMV region. Although President Trump cancelled the raids hours before they were set to begin, we don’t know if it is a permanent cancellation. He has suggested in media interviews that he will reinstitute them in two weeks if Congress is unable to agree on a deal to handle the humanitarian crisis at the border.

The uncertainty created by these announcements has resulted in widespread fear among the immigrant communities that we serve. We are working to ensure that our community members and neighbors know their rights when interacting with law enforcement/ICE agents in order to combat their fear and help them ensure their rights are respected. We hope you will be able to attend this upcoming training so that you can assist us with this effort. 

We will be updating attendees on the proposed public charge rule change and the and Dream and Promise Act as well.

WHEN: Thursday, June 27th from 3:00 to 5:00 pm

WHERE: 2110 Washington Blvd. 2nd FL Arlington, VA 22204 (Syphax Education Center)

REGISTRATION required: Please fill out this link:

For more information, please contact  

Organized by Legal Aid Justice Center’s Immigrant Advocacy Program in collaboration with VACOLAO 

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Virginia Schools Need Investment in Support Staff—Not More School Resource Officers

Yesterday, Governor Northam announced over $3.47 million in School Resource Officer (SRO) incentive grants to 53 localities across the Commonwealth. The funding will allow school divisions to add more SROs to Virginia’s K-12 public schools, increasing the number of SROs in Virginia by 10 percent, according to the press release. To create safer schools where all children can learn and thrive, Virginia must divest from placing law enforcement inside schools and make bold new investments in school support staff and trauma-informed and restorative practices.

School Policing Is A Racial Justice Issue

African-American students are disproportionately swept into the criminal justice system for incidents that take place at school. A 2017 Virginia Tech study uncovered significant racial disparities in referrals to law enforcement for school-based offenses: African-American students accounted for roughly 23 percent of the student population in Virginia but nearly 50 percent of referrals to the juvenile justice system. Those disparities are heightened inside school buildings and persist throughout Virginia’s law enforcement and juvenile court process. A single report of a student to law enforcement, even if it does not lead to a juvenile court intake, can have devastating and ongoing consequences for a student: stigmatization by school staff and peers, erosion of trust in school staff, susceptibility to more police encounters, and loss of interest in school.

As outlined in an extensive report from The Advancement Project, school policing has roots in efforts to quash youth support for the Civil Rights movement, and African-American students report feeling less safe with police in schools.

Our Schools Don’t Need More SROs

According to Virginia’s 2017 Statewide School Safety Audit Survey, 87 percent of high schools and 85 percent of middle schools have either a full-time or part-time SRO. In recent years, in headline after headline, we have heard about school police officers responding with force against students with disabilities, using chemical restraints like pepper spray against middle school students, threatening or intimidating students, and harboring ties to white supremacist groups. Through data collection, we see vague, subjective behavioral “offenses” like disorderly conduct charges decrease in the community, yet substantially increase in our schools. Only this past General Assembly session did lawmakers mandate that all SROs receive training specific to their duties—a law that will not even go into effect in full until July 2020.    

Both the data and historically overpoliced communities themselves tell us clearly: rather than providing for the safety of students, a school law enforcement presence merely shuttles more students—and disproportionately more African-American students—into court for school discipline matters that should be handled by school personnel.

Meanwhile, Virginia understaffs positions critical to student support—positions that should be the first line of support for students who instead are garnering charges—and student caseloads are staggering. School counselors had an average caseload of 385 students in 2016, well above the recommended standard of 250 students. In 2015, school social workers had an average caseload of 1,600 students; the national recommendation was 1,000.

Virginia Must Fix Its School Funding Crisis

SROs are law enforcement officers, not student support personnel. Rather than prioritizing SROs, the Commonwealth must first fulfill its state constitutional duty to invest in high-quality, twenty-first century schools with adequate student support staff. But given the opportunity, the administration has neglected to propose, and the General Assembly has declined, over and over, to fully fund the required staffing positions to achieve high-quality schools for all students. Despite broad support for a new law, effective July 1, to require school divisions to lower counselor-to-student ratios, the state’s FY20 budget doesn’t fully fund the new caseload requirements—leaving local school divisions with an unfunded mandate. This shortfall also exists despite recommendations from the Virginia Board of Education to lift the state budget’s arbitrary “support position cap”—which limits funding for school support positions, including central office positions, attendance officers, school social workers, and maintenance personnel.

To truly create supportive learning enforcements for our students—Virginia must fully fund our schools.




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6 Things To Know Right Now about the recent Virginia budget amendment

to temporarily halt driver’s license suspensions for unpaid court debt:


  • 1. The budget amendment should lift current driver’s license suspensions for unpaid or delinquent court debt, and will prevent future such suspensions beginning July 1, 2019 and lasting until June 30, 2020. (We don’t yet know what the policy will be after the budget amendment expires.)
    • According to the DMV, if your license is suspended solely for unpaid court debt AND it is not expired AND you still have it in your possession, your driver’s license will automatically become valid (and reinstatement fee will be waived) on July 1, 2019, and you will not have to do anything.
    • If your license is suspended solely for unpaid court debt and it IS expired or otherwise needs to be updated (for example, you lost it or you need to update your “proof of legal presence”), your suspension will be lifted and reinstatement fee waived BUT you will likely need to contact the DMV to renew your license and will likely be charged renewal or other administrative fees, which will vary by individual.
    • If your license is suspended for unpaid court debt AND some other reason, the DMV says it will lift the court debt suspension BUT you will still need to serve out the other suspension(s) and fulfill any court or DMV obligations related to those suspensions before your license can become valid. We do not yet know how DMV will implement this.
    • If your Virginia driver’s license was suspended for court debt and you now live in another state, the Virginia DMV says this suspension “will no longer be visible” to other states, but we do not yet know what this means in practice.
    • The DMV says they will send a letter to individuals in Virginia listing any additional actions, if any, they will need to take to get a valid license (renewal applications, fees, etc.).

2. Though it lifts current court debt-related driver’s license suspensions and prevents future such suspensions through June 30, 2020, the budget amendment does not cancel debt owed.

You will still be required to pay your court debt, & the court could still pursue collections against you with mechanisms that include: wage garnishment, tax intercept, debt collector intervention, and, possibly, issuing a kind of warrant called a “show cause” that will require you to appear in court to answer for the debt, which could result in some jail time.

In some cases, payment of your court debt may be a part of probation requirements or to maintain a suspended jail sentence term—please consult your attorney in these matters for advice.

3. The budget amendment only lifts/prevents license suspensions that are solely due to unpaid court fines & fees.
This does not include, for example, license suspensions given for unpaid child support. It does not include suspensions directly resulting from convictions for reckless driving, DUI, or simple possession—though it would include a license suspension based solely on any unpaid fines & fees tied to those convictions.

4. It’s possible to have more than one kind of driver’s license suspension at the same time. If you have a license suspension for an offense like a DUI, reckless driving, etc., AND a license suspension for unpaid court fines and fees, the budget amendment should still cause the unpaid fines/fees suspension to be lifted. This means, however, that the other suspension(s) will still be in effect. Again, the best way to keep track of this is to obtain your DMV compliance report on or before July 1 of this year, or as soon as you can after that.

5. The Virginia state budget that contains this budget language goes into effect July 1, 2019, and the DMV says eligible licenses will automatically become valid (unless there are administrative requirements or other suspensions), but our advice: make sure your license is valid before you drive. This law will not come into effect until July 1, 2019, so none of this applies until then!

    • If you drive, please drive with caution—our best advice is to seek your DMV compliance report until it shows your suspension has been lifted. Then, you may want to carry the compliance report with you if you drive, just as a precaution.
    • Even if your suspension is lifted, your license might not be VALID, and if you drive, you could be charged with “Driving Without An Operator’s License” (DWOL) until you fulfill the necessary requirements. The new law does not prevent consequences for DWOL or DWLS (Driving With License Suspended) charges—if your license is not valid or you are still serving another suspension or you drive from now until July 1, 2019, while under a court-debt suspension, you can still be subject to these charges.

6. If your driver’s license was suspended solely for unpaid court debt, you should not be charged the $145+ license reinstatement fee by the DMV for that reinstatement. If you have another type of license suspension, or if you need to obtain a new driver’s license or renew an expired one, the DMV may charge you fees related to either reinstating your license once you’ve served your other suspension, or fees associated with renewing or first obtaining a license. If your only license suspension is for unpaid court fines and fees, however, you should not be charged a fee related to the suspension, but could face fees for renewal, replacement, etc.

If you have questions about your driver’s license suspension, please contact the DMV. Their website has some information, as well as a contact email form specific to these cases, and other phone numbers and ways to reach them:

Access a share-able PDF of this FAQ here. 

For more information about our Legal Aid Justice Center work on these issues, please visit our website at