eNewsletter - August 2016

 
  
   LAF eNews Update
August 2016   
EQUAL JUSTICE STARTS HERE.
In This Newsletter
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Meet Pedro Gaytan
 
Pedro Gaytan, at right, Paralegal with the Illinois Migrant Legal Assistance Project and the LAF Immigrants and Workers’ Rights Practice Group, speaking to farmworkers
 
 
When Pedro Gaytan was growing up in Mexico and Texas, many of his uncles and cousins would travel to the U.S. during harvest season to work in apple orchards in Michigan, Illinois, and Washington State. When he grew up and earned his U.S. citizenship, Pedro knew he wanted to help people like them. He joined LAF in 1999, and he’s been on the front lines of migrant farmworker outreach, a project within the Immigrants and Workers' Rights Practice Group, ever since. In the last two weeks alone, he has logged more than 1000 miles of travel across Illinois, visiting farms and migrant farmworker labor camps, and exploring new places where he can speak with farmworkers about their rights.

There are approximately 75,000 migrant and seasonal farmworkers in Illinois each year, from other parts of the US, as well as from Mexico and Central America. In the past, outreach work used to be limited to only summers and farmworker labor camps, but now Pedro is finding new clients all year round, even in the city and suburbs, through outreach to landscapers (classified as “secondary agricultural workers”) many of whom do snow removal in colder months, and workers in canning facilities and meat-packing plants. He talks to workers about their rights to unemployment benefits, fair wages and working conditions, and benefits like food stamps, health insurance, and time off under the Family Medical Leave Act. Their complaints are most often about working conditions and unpaid wages. These workers sometimes work 70 or 80 hours in a week and find only half of that work reflected on their paychecks. Pedro urges them to call LAF to contest their unpaid wages or lack of benefits.

As an outreach paralegal, Pedro’s work at LAF looks different than most. He handles a significant caseload of administrative matters, for issues like unemployment and public benefits hearings, but much of his work is in investigation and outreach. He visits clients where they live, researches employers' payment practices, and watches for violations of workers’ rights. “For me,” he explains, “the important thing is to have good communication with clients.  I am very committed to the community, looking out for their needs, and advising them in many ways.” Keeping communication is more complicated because his clients move often and live in extreme poverty. Pedro has to be able to maintain contact with them, even when many of them move back to rural parts of Mexico and other countries. Many clients can only afford a cell phone payment every so often, so Pedro must be creative in using free phone apps and social media sites to establish basic avenues of communication.
 
Pedro also works with LAF’s summer law students, who are an integral part of the statewide outreach efforts. These interns travel all over Illinois with their mobile offices. Having learned much of the legal end of his work on the job, Pedro is happy to mentor the students, helping them to open cases, collect photos, and develop a keen eye for details in the fields and at labor camps. Together, Pedro and the students are always learning new things from each other.
 
We’re proud of the work Pedro does, and we’re grateful for his dedication to LAF’s clients. Thanks, Pedro!  
 
Check out LAF on Social Media!
 
Follow us on Twitter at @ChicagoLAF, like our Facebook page, catch up with us on Instagram,
andread our blog at lafchicago.wordpress.com to keep up with all our work!
 

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A special message
from LAF
Executive Director
Diana C. White
 
This summer, LAF hosted 31 law student interns and six law graduate Fellows. They hailed from 13 law schools across the country and served clients in each of our five Practice Groups. Our interns and Fellows brought enthusiasm for learning, dedication to our clients, and commitment to social justice.  They left with a deeper understanding of poverty law and the challenges our clients face.
 
As a result of the hard work of these interns and Fellows, LAF was able to provide advice and representation to more clients and impact more lives in a positive way. We are so grateful for the time that they devoted to us this summer, and wish them all the best as they head back to school later this month. 
 
On behalf of everyone at LAF and all the clients we serve, thank you for your generosity and support of our work.  Your investment in LAF is not just an investment in our clients' lives, it's also an investment in the next generation of civil legal aid lawyers, who will continue to improve the world for people living in poverty.
  
Best,
 
Diana C. White
LAF Executive Director
 
 
LAF's Migrant, Trafficking, 
and Immigration Projects Meet
with Clients Across the State
IWR Outreach Tour Covers
Most of Illinois in Two Days
 
On a Wednesday morning last month, LAF’s Immigrants and Workers’ Rights Practice Group (IWR) piled its 16 staff members into four different cars in Chicago and set out in different directions across the state.  Over the next two and a half days, the teams covered nearly 70 of Illinois’ 102 counties, educating low-wage workers about their rights, working to stop human trafficking and wage theft, and handing out thousands of educational outreach materials.  Some migrant farmworkers live in housing whose location is published by the Federal Department of Labor, and others are found in locations the IWR teams have known and visited for many years, and still others are found through community networking.  Every year during their outreach tour, the teams find new locations to connect with low-wage workers and combat the most pressing legal issues the workers face.  Whether it be at migrant labor camps, farms, carnivals, strip clubs, massage parlors, nail salons, restaurants, or hotels, IWR's team does -- and continues to do -- intense and extensive outreach covering the entire state of Illinois. 
 
Photos from the IMLAP Teams' Statewide Tour
 
You can read more in-depth about the working conditions of migrant and seasonal farmworkers in this recent article from the Chicago Tribune.  In it Miguel Keberlein, IWR Director, explains: “workers who cultivate and put food on the tables for all of us – most of them need food stamps to put food on their own tables.  The system is fundamentally flawed, that some workers are treated different from others.  And so we’re working to make sure that, at least, within that system, workers’ rights are respected.”
 
 
ABA Pro Bono Publico Award 
LAF Partners Katten Muchin Rosenman
Earn Major Award
 
In 2013, LAF and the law firm of Katten Muchin Rosenman launched the Katten Legal Clinic at José de Diego Community Academy, the first legal clinic located in a Chicago public school.  The Clinic is open on the third Wednesday evening of every month during the school year and addresses legal issues ranging from landlord-tenant disputes and housing matters to wills, expungements and consumer and family law.  Last year alone, Katten attorneys and staff provided more than 800 hours of pro bono legal services, including extended representation of many clinic clients.  Because of their dedication to the De Diego Clinic, Katten was awarded the American Bar Association's Pro Bono Publico Award this year.  Here is a video about their efforts at the Clinic:  
 
 
The Pro Bono Publico Awards were presented earlier this month during the 2016 ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service to individual lawyers and institutions in the legal profession that have demonstrated outstanding commitment to volunteer legal services for the poor and disadvantaged.  Congratulations, Katten!  
 
Above and Beyond 
LAF Attorneys Secure Housing and Documents for Betty to Have a Voice
 
Betty is 91 years old, and has hearing and visual impairments.  She uses a wheelchair, and has very limited use of her hands.  Because of her limited mobility, she was physically unable to sign the papers to renew her lease on her subsidized housing unit and her landlord was threatening to kick her out.  Of course, there are ways for her to legally approve the documents despite her physical inability to put pen to paper, but the Housing Authority did not offer her any of these accommodations, and Betty was in danger of becoming homeless.  With the help of her two children and a close friend, she traveled from Lakeview to the De Diego Legal Clinic in Humboldt Park to get help.  The Clinic is a partnership between LAF and pro bono volunteers from Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP. 
 
LAF stepped up to help Betty.  A team consisting of attorney Kim Cramer, Social Worker Suzy Stockton, and VISTA attorney Regina Hernandez recommended that Betty have a Power of Attorney for Health Care and Property, so an agent could fill out the paperwork needed for her lease on her behalf.  The team invested in a pocket-sized personal amplifier, to ensure that Betty would be able to hear and understand them.  They took two trips to her apartment to meet with her at length, first to determine capacity and draft documents, and then to review the papers with Betty and get them signed and notarized.  They were sensitive to Betty’s needs, patient with her and her caregivers, and made sure that Betty had full control over such intensely personal decision making -- despite her poor health and other challenges.
 
Because of Suzy, Kim, and Regina's time and commitment, Betty now has documents that give her control of financial and end-of-life decisions.  And she is able to stay in her subsidized apartment with a renewed lease. 
 
 
LAF's Seventh Annual 
Golf Outing Next Month
Join Us at the Harborside International
Golf Center on September 19th!  
 
Join LAF for its Seventh Annual Golf Outing on the Port Course at the Harborside International Golf Club in Chicago, IL. Harborside International Golf Center has been Chicago's home for golf since 1995. Located only minutes from downtown, Harborside offers the premier golf experience in the Chicagoland area. As the only facility with two of Golfweek's "Best Courses You Can Play in Illinois" and home to the most expansive driving range and practice facility in Northern Illinois, Harborside delivers the best that Chicago has to offer in golf.  Get your tickets or sponsor a hole!  Reserve your spot today!  
 
 
LAF 's Seventh Annual Golf Outing
Monday, September 19, 2016
10:30 Registration - 11:00 Lunch - 12:00 Start
Harborside International Golf Center
11001 South Doty Avenue East, Chicago, IL 
 
And Don't Forget Your Raffle Tickets!  Our Grand Prize winner will win a week in a private Condo in Maui, $1,000 towards airfare, a free round of golf, and dinner for two!  The Grand Prize Drawing will be held November 2016.  Winners need not be present to win.  
 
 
Check out LAF on Social Media!
 
Follow us on Twitter at @ChicagoLAF, like our Facebook page, catch up with us on Instagram, and read our blog at lafchicago.wordpress.com to keep up with all our work!
 
 
Sign up for Monthly Giving!
Pledge your ongoing support to LAF and
make your recurring gift today!
 
  
LAF
EQUAL JUSTICE STARTS HERE.

For the past 50 years, LAF has provided free legal services in non-criminal matters to the poorest and most vulnerable people in our community, ensuring they have the same access to legal services as those who can afford it.  By resolving critical legal problems that systemically trap people in poverty, such as domestic violence, consumer fraud, and unfair evictions, LAF has helped hundreds of thousands of individuals get their lives back on track and given them hope for a brighter future.  
We rely on the generous investment of individuals and companies to provide the private support we need to fulfill our mission.  
 
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