By Martin Gauto
One of CLINIC’s core functions is to boost legal capacity in underserved areas in the United States. An area experiencing a severe shortage in low-cost, professional immigration legal service providers is the Inland Empire (or the “IE” as it is known) region of Southern California. It is home to over one million foreign-born persons. Fortunately, Training Occupational Development Education Communities (TODEC) is a service provider assisting newcomers with quality, charitable legal help in the IE.
A respected local organization, TODEC Legal Center engaged CLINIC through a capacity building project during 2014. TODEC, located in Perris, California, is a grassroots nonprofit organization that has been serving migrant communities in Riverside, San Bernardino, and Imperial Counties for decades. The group provides consumer education, advocacy, citizenship/naturalization, occupational, and remedial services.
In early 2014 CLINIC joined Ready California, a coalition of California nonprofit organizations dedicated to preparing for comprehensive immigration reform or administrative relief. As part of that effort, CLINIC was able to offer free legal training and consultation, helping TODEC and other nonprofit, non-attorney staff acquire authorization to practice immigration law through BIA recognition and accreditation. TODEC put seven people through the training and eventually submitted a BIA recognition application and accreditation applications for all seven people, including its Founder and Executive Director, Luz Maria Ayala. Community Programs Director, Luz Gallegos explains that due to the support of CLINIC’s Legalization Director Jack Holmgren and Field Support Coordinator Martin Gauto, “We are ready for Administrative relief!”
The BIA approved the recognition application and all seven accreditation applications in December 2014. This is a major achievement for CLINIC, TODEC, and the IE. Prior to these approvals there were only seven BIA accredited representatives in the entire region. Together CLINIC and TODEC doubled legal capacity in the area!