Rural Justice Updates

Deputy Director Dan Torres appointed
California’s Chief of the Immigration Branch

CRLA Deputy Director Dan Torres was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to be California’s Chief of the Immigration Branch in the Department of Social Services. Dan has been instrumental in elevating CRLA’s multiple programs and initiatives into national advocacy models. “We will miss working with Dan…but we know we have a life-long friend committed to improving the lives of vulnerable communities in California,” said Deputy Director Marcela Ruiz.

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CRLA’s Estella Cisneros recognized by
The Huffington Post

The Huffington Post recognized CRLA’s Estella Cisneros for changing the food industry with her exemplary advocacy with the farmworker community. Cisneros, a graduate of Yale Law School, is the daughter of Mexican farmworkers who immigrated to the United States. At Stanford University, she realized that she “was being called to serve the very community [she] had grown up in.” Cisneros now provides legal representation for immigrant farmworkers in the California dairy industry and is a Skadden Foundation Fellow at California Rural Legal Assistance.

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The Tale of the End of the Short-Handled Hoe

Listent to CRLA Salinas Community Worker Hector de la Rosa and CRLA alumni and current volunteer, Mo Jourdane, discuss how he and CRLA ended the use of the short hoe in the 1970s, a victory that improved the lives of farmworkers then and now.

The Long Tale of the Short-Handled Hoe

Take a look back at a historic battle over workers’ rights in California. It all started in “the salad bowl of the world” – aka Salinas Valley – and the fight was over a simple tool: the short-handled hoe.

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CRLA’s Education Program

CRLA’s staff works tirelessly to breakdown the educational barriers that exist in California. All California students have a legal right to receive a good education and set them on a path to end the poverty in their community. Recently we have achieved some results that are great victories for our educational advocacy. We are thrilled to share the stories of these cases with you.

A student in the Imperial Valley had been physically and mentally bullied by his peers for three years while in middle school. The student and his parents complained to the school. The school did nothing other than offering to move him out of the only bilingual education classroom available at the school. The student suffered for several years without intervention from the school and developed post-traumatic stress disorder. CRLA is involved in litigation to fix the district’s inadequate response to bullying.

Click here to read further about this important case!


Litigation Update: As you may recall, CRLA filed a lawsuit to protect students in Kern County.  The Kern High School District (KHSD) has been disciplining Latinos and African-American students at a higher rate than their white peers. CRLA and a coalition of civil rights groups were not surprised to learn that the District’s own findings indicate that African American students are subject to double the rates of discipline as white students.

Click here to read more about this development in the case!


Earlier this month, CRLA reached a favorable settlement agreement with the Ventura County Office of Education to protect the education rights of the most vulnerable students in California: juvenile justice youth including low-income students with disabilities and students from non/limited English speaking households. Working with our partner, the Youth Law Center, the County must provide supplemental education services to students who had been denied access to classroom instruction and forced into independent study.

Click here to read more about this settlement!

CRLA’s Partnership with UC Santa Cruz

CRLA is committed to fighting for justice for all rural workers, and we pride ourselves on being responsive to the evolving needs of our client communities.  The economic engine of many communities in rural California has shifted from agriculture to tourism, hospitality or other low-wage jobs.  Finding data that demonstrated this shift proved to be near impossible. CRLA began working with academic institutions to capture this information.  Gretchen Regenhardt, our Regional Director based in Watsonville initially worked with the Public Interest and Legal Aid to Rural Communities program out of UC Hastings College of Law to launch a survey of low-wage workers in Santa Cruz County.  This proved highly successful and in 2013 Gretchen took the work one step further by starting an innovative partnership with two world renowned research centers based out of University of California Santa Cruz:  The Center for Labor Studies and the Chicano Latino Research Center.  

With help from the Chicano-Latino Research Center, the Center for Labor Studies, led by Dr. Steve Mc Kay began a census of the invisible – training UCSC undergraduate students, many of whom were Spanish speakers, to interview workers using a survey designed to capture conditions in the workplace.  The data collection included about 1300 low-wage workers. Additionally, in-depth interviews were conducted, capturing the worker’s individual stories – creating a full picture of what workers face.  The worker’s narratives were used to create digital stories and portraits of the workers –to give a voice to people who are often rendered voiceless.  UCSC students provided data analysis that will be used by CRLA  and service providers to ensure that low-wage workers are getting the services and support that will meet their needs.  Additionally, engaging the students was a profound exercise bridging the gap between academia and real world struggles.  Some of the students had never had a conversation with a low-wage worker, while others of the students found the workers stories reflected their own experience and that of their families.   “It was one of the greatest experiences of my life,” said UCSC student Nicholas Martinez.

On May 7th, the workers’ stories, the data, amazing photos and testimonials by participants took place at a very special event at the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz.  The rich material is also available on a website, where you can learn more about this wonderful project.  “Working with Steve and his team was a great way for CRLA to extend our reach into the community, and to get real-time, impactful data about our client communities’ changing struggles,” said Gretchen.

View pictures from the event here>>>> image #2 image #3 image #4 image #5

José and CRLA Honored

As you may recall, two very prestigious organizations, the California Latino Legislative Caucus and the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) honored José Padilla and CRLA.

The California Latino Legislative Caucus honored Jose Padilla and CRLA with the Latino Spirit Award.

José dedicated the award to his parents, Joe and Delia Padilla, who taught him the importance of public service and to always strive to improve the community. He thanked all the staff, volunteers, and partners of CRLA who have fought with him over the years for justice, fairness and legal access for all Californians.

The Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) awarded CRLA with the Per Diem Project Award at the Association of American Law School’s 38th Conference on Clinical Legal Education. Members of CLEA donated thousands of dollars to CRLA! We thank them for their generosity! This type of support will allow us to continue to provide legal interns with the opportunity to gain practical legal experience and a place to help others.

View pictures from the event here>> image #2 image #3 image #4 image #5

Latino Spirit Awards

 Recognition is a reminder that the people and causes that CRLA fights for are important to the rest of the society. CRLA and our Executive Director, and your friend and colleague, Mr. José Padilla will be recognized from two groups this May.

The California Latino Legislative Caucus will be honoring José at the 14th Annual Latino Spirit Awards. The Latino Caucus is made up of five State Senators and seventeen Assembly Members. The awards are a two day event from May 3 to May 4, 2015, in Sacramento that celebrates influential Latinos. The Latino Caucus selected José Padilla for his legal accomplishments and lifelong commitment to the Latino community.


On Wednesday, May 6, 2015, Jose will be speaking at the 2015 American Association of Law Schools (AALS) Clinical Conference. Jose is the keynote speaker at the conference and will discuss CRLA's work and the challenges to achieving social justice. CRLA will receive the Per Diem Award of the Clinical Legal Education Associate (CLEA) at the conference. This award is part of the Pier Diem Project, which CLEA created to acknowledge and support social justice groups. Our long history of working with law school legal clinics is why CLEA chose CRLA. Law school clinics give law students the opportunity to directly help clients while being supervised by an attorney.

The CLEA Per Diem Project asks those attending to donate an equivalent to a day's per diem, which will then be donated to CRLA to help continue our work.

To learn more about CLEA>>

Alleged Pepper Spray Misuse in Juvenile Detention Facilities

CRLA partners with other civil rights organizations to file a complaint with the Justice Department requesting a federal investigation into pepper spray use in San Diego juvenile detention facilities.

CRLA partners with other civil rights organizations to file a complaint with the Justice Department requesting a federal investigation into pepper spray use in San Diego juvenile detention facilities.

“CRLA gives marginalized groups– like Juvenile offenders – a voice.  Pepper spray use is often unchecked and rampant in detention facilities.  We want these youth to concentrate on personal development, not self-defense against excessive force.” – Prairie Bly, Directing Attorney – Vista

Copyright Associated Press