Laura Clauson Ferree joined CRLA in 2014 and feels very fortunate to be able to work with the dedicated Marysville CRLA staff serving Yuba, Sutter, and Colusa Counties.
Laura received her law degree from the Georgetown Law Center in Washington, D.C. She graduated from the Georgetown School of Foreign Service where she majored in Latin American Studies.
Before joining CRLA, Laura helped create the Community Legal Program at the Family Resource Center of Truckee in Truckee, California. In Truckee, Laura worked on poverty law issues in a small mountain community with seasonal workers struggling to work and live in an affluent tourist town. Laura recently worked in Anchorage, Alaska for the Alaska State Human Rights Commission, helping ensure that workplaces and homes are free of unlawful discrimination.
In addition to focusing on employee rights, Laura is passionate about ensuring that all students, regardless of background, have access to quality public education and the opportunity to attend college.
When she is not working, Laura loves to read, spend time with her husband and three rescue dogs, and travel the world with her daughter.
Oxnard, CA- Pacifica High School graduating senior Melesio Juarez earned over $28,000 in college scholarships from local organizations and a deep admiration from CRLA Oxnard staff who taught him valuable business and leadership skills during his volunteer tenure.
“Melesio started volunteering with our office about a year ago, we observed a great potential and guided him as to what steps to take so he could go to college and apply for scholarships,” said Irma Avila-Espinoza CRLA Oxnard Migrant Administrative Legal Secretary. “When I watched him walk across the graduation stage, I felt very proud that CRLA played a crucial and important role to his success.”
The Oxnard Union High School District graduate immigrated to the US from Mexico when he was eleven years old. He and his family labored in the fields as migrant farmworkers working long hours for little pay.
“When I was working in the orange groves and strawberry and bell pepper fields, all I could think about was going to school and learning so that I could have a better life,” said Melesio. “My parents taught me that I have to work hard for anything I wish to have in my life, and their valuable advice keeps me on track academically and socially.”
Melesio is tri-lingual. He speaks Zapoteco, Spanish, and English fluently and is originally from Oaxaca de Juarez, Mexico. Children from migrant families like Melesio’s face many unique higher education access challenges due to seasonal vocational relocations – the effects of which are compounded by language barriers. These students are disproportionately less likely than their peers to graduate high school or go to college. Melesio is a true success story.
“Coming from an indigenous background makes Melesio’s story even more impressive and endearing,” said Monica De la Hoya, CRLA Oxnard Directing Attorney. “Coming to the US less than ten years ago meant that he had to learn Spanish and English in addition to navigating the rigors of middle and high school.”
“Volunteering at CRLA, is the best choice I have made so far in my life besides going to school. They supported and mentored me at a crucial time in my schooling. The knowledge I have gained from them has opened many doors and endless opportunities for me.” Said Melesio
In the fall of 2014 Melesio Juarez will attend California State University Northridge where he plans to pursue a degree in economics.
Mariano Alvarez (left) explains in Triqui Bajo to farmworkers the requirements that employers provide bathrooms, water, shade and brakes to workers in the field as required by law.
Mariano Alvarez, CRLA’s Indigenous Program Community Worker based in Salinas, CA, was awarded the Reconocimiento Ohtli by the Mexican Consulate in San Jose, in recognition of his work to improve the lives and defend the rights of indigenous Mexicans in the US. This is the highest honor awarded by the Mexican Government to a member of the Mexican or Mexican American community living in the United States. The award was presented on Saturday, May 3 at the Mexican Consulate in San Jose. Previous recipients have included luminaries like Dolores Huerta, Hilda Solis, Antonio Villaraigosa, Henry Cisneros, and CRLA’s Executive Director José Padilla.
Pictured From Left to Right Deborah Escobedo (Youth Law Center) Franchesca Gonzalez (CRLA), Kim McGill (FREE LA NOW), Kevin Guevara, Jesus Bonilla, Eddie Flores, Juan Pena, Gloria Gonzalez, Dayvon Williams, Joey Carmargo, Alberto Cazarez.
CRLA, along with students from FREE LA NOW and the Youth Justice Coalition provided compelling testimony at the Assembly Education Committee hearing on May 4th in support of State Assembly Member Raul Bocanegra’s Assembly Bill 2276 which seeks to remove re-enrollment obstacles facings students released from juvenile detention. Franchesca Gonzalez, CRLA Oxnard Staff Attorney, began the hearing with stories of two clients seeking a fresh start after being released from juvenile hall, but found their local school doors closed to them. She was followed by testimony from members of FREE LA NOW who spoke of their personal experiences in trying to reclaim their lives after being released, and finding no help from their local school districts. During the hearing Assemblyman Das Williams (Ventura) thanked Assemblyman Bocanegra for bringing this important bill and for inviting CRLA to provide testimony about our clients and the vital services we provide.
Lorenzo Oropeza, CRLA Santa Rosa Indigenous Program Community Worker (right) and, Gervacio Peña, a Santa Rosa Mixteco community leader (center) provided testimony in Mixteco and Spanish at the hearing about the importance of providing indigenous language interpreters to the courts. They are pictured with Judge Manuel Covarrubias of the Ventura County Superior Court, Co-Chair of the Joint Working Group on California’s Language Access Plan (center).
San Francisco – February 24, 2014 – Maureen Keffer, CRLA’s Indigenous Program Director, and Lorenzo Oropeza, Indigenous Program Community Worker, participated in a Judicial Council of California public hearing to inform the development of the state courts’ first comprehensive Language Access Plan. The Council invited CRLA to speak on a panel of legal services providers to give a candid perspective about the language access needs of Limited English Proficient clients. CRLA highlighted our language access outreach to indigenous community members, featuring our “I Speak” card program. Our staff also referenced the groundbreaking study commissioned and produced by CRLA in conjunction with Rick Mines about indigenous farmworkers.
“Our message to the Council was that courts need to ensure all litigants, including indigenous language speakers, are provided with appropriate language services in every case or point of contact with the courts,” said Keffer.
There were two more hearings this March in Sacramento and Los Angeles where Indigenous Program Community Workers Antonio Flores and Mariano Alvarez further conveyed thoughts and findings to the Council and brought indigenous speakers to share their experiences with language access in the courts – or lack thereof.
Roughly 20 percent of Californians–nearly 7 million–have some English language limitations, making it difficult to access the courts without significant language assistance.
CRLA hosted leading state and national advocates working to prevent sexual harassment/assault against farmworkers in our Oakland office.
March 4, 2014 – CRLA’s Oakland office hosted leading state and national advocates working to prevent sexual harassment/assault against farmworkers. The meeting was organized by Oxfam America to facilitate a deeper conversation with a diverse group of activists engaged in efforts to end sexual harassment/assault in agriculture.
“It was tremendous to have so many minds in one place focusing on a topic most people just don’t like to discuss,” said Mike Meuter CRLA Director of Litigation Advocacy & Training. “We really maximized our collective power with respect to the priorities and capacities of our individual organizations and constituencies.”
HELP ADVANCE THE RIGHTS OF CALIFORNIA RURAL COMMUNITIES