2022 Grants Challenge

The Real Dream: Inspiring Public Service through a DREAMer Delegation and Legal Fellowship

Depleted by the pandemic, L.A.’s Latinx community would benefit from a restorative initiative, designed by the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), which will nurture hope and public service, while also addressing future workforce needs. The organization proposes 20 legal advocacy fellowships based at community colleges/CSU DREAM Centers and a human rights trip to Guatemala for DREAMers and junior immigration attorneys. The delegation will study migration’s root causes and (re)ignite passion for social justice for low-income immigrants.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Immigrant and Refugee Support

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

Central LA

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Demand is high among LA’s low-income immigrants for quality immigration legal services – whether assistance with citizenship, permanent residency, asylum, Violence Against Women Act protections, DACA, removal defense, or other complex services. Ensuring that the next generation enters this demanding field in sufficient numbers is vital to LA families’ success and livelihoods. With an eye towards the future, CARECEN recognizes the toll that the pandemic took on those in the field and on aspiring professionals. They need interventions that foster hope and a restored perspective. Experiential learning addresses these short-/longer-term needs. Mentored fellowships expand career options and encourage persistence to graduation, particularly for first-gen/undocumented students who have lacked access to opportunities. Study abroad trips can open horizons, offer advanced parole for DACA students (accelerating the path to legal status) and refresh accompanying nonprofit immigration attorneys.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

For 38 years, CARECEN has been a force for immigrant rights based in the Pico-Union community. We are proud to be the main immigration-related legal service provider for students and their families at 20+ CSUs, UCs, and community colleges. In 2021-22, our Legal Unit began to offer a single paid ten-month Legal Advocacy Fellowship on each campus with funding from the California Department of Social Services. With LA2050 support, we could double the number of fellowships. Mentored by DREAM Center/CARECEN staff, fellows gain advocacy/organizing skills as they implement events and campaigns (275-300 hours/semester) that increase access to immigration legal services. In addition, CARECEN seeks to build on past experiences and organize a two-week human rights trip to Guatemala in December. Over the years, we have seen countless immigrant students, who must request advance parole to travel, be excluded from traditional campus study abroad programs. The 10 attendees – DACA students/DREAM Center staff/CARECEN attorneys - will learn firsthand about immigration movements from and through Northern Triangle countries, attend seminars/discussions with regional leaders, and visit universities and local NGOs. As a trip designated for “advanced parole,” it will be open to DACA students and thereby accelerate their applications for green cards. Funding would open the trip to more junior attorneys to learn alongside, and bond with, students while nourishing their passion for social justice.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Through this project, vulnerable immigrants in Los Angeles County will be one step closer to achieving legal status, access to quality education, family unity, political empowerment, and economic and social justice. Directly, there will be more awareness among students throughout the California higher educational system of free services on campuses, and a larger cadre of culturally competent advocates, some of whom may become immigration attorneys with on-the-ground expertise. Aspiring professional DREAMers will enjoy greater wellness as they pursue meaningful work, while also achieving peace of mind as their legal status is resolved. As the need continues to grow for such services among immigrants in Los Angeles, programs like ours will burnish the city’s reputation as a wonderful training ground for immigration legal services and a place where immigrants achieve the American Dream.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

For the overall program, we will measure our success in engaging, informing, and recruiting students and young professionals and the quality of partnerships. Analysis of participants’ post-program survey responses will supply valuable feedback to determine the program’s strengths and areas for improvement. Measures specific to each program component will be as follows: 1. CARECEN will review fellows’ attendance; stated career intentions; individual projects and deliverables, such as videos and presentations; and mentor observations. 2. For the trip, CARECEN will track attendance and participation in trainings and orientation. We will survey participants about changes in attitudes/knowledge of issues, satisfaction with experience, and career directions and intentions. This initiative will produce a cohort of alumni who will inform the focus and direction of upcoming delegations/fellowships.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 30

Indirect Impact: 900