Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles will advocate for invisible plight of migrant workers
Los Angeles, CA – The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) is proud to host an Equal Justice Works Fellow who will launch a pioneering legal clinic to support victims of labor trafficking from the Philippines. The clinic, which will be held virtually and in person, will empower migrant workers to achieve economic freedom and stability by providing holistic, culturally intelligent, and linguistically appropriate services.
This project—the first of its kind in Southern California—will be spearheaded by Shawntel Williams through her 2023 fellowship with Equal Justice Works, the nation’s largest facilitator of opportunities in public interest law. A graduate of the University of Michigan School of Law and fluent in Tagalog, Shawntel will work closely with community organizations and LAFLA’s pro bono partners to provide comprehensive services and education for the Filipino migrant community on issues such as wage theft, public benefits claims, and immigration relief.
“Being a part of the Filipino community, it was deeply troubling growing up and reading countless stories of exploited and abused Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs),” Shawntel said. “I’m hopeful that the combination of grassroots advocacy, social services, and the formation of a dedicated, trauma-informed legal clinic will help dismantle the barriers that victims of labor trafficking face.”
California is one of the largest hotspots for forced labor in the United States, and a significant portion of victims come from the Philippines. Filipino workers are commonly targeted for domestic labor roles, such as caregiving and housekeeping, where they face abusive living and working conditions. The new program will conduct deep community outreach to overcome the isolation and precarity that pose barriers to justice for exploited migrants in the region.
“This partnership perfectly positions LAFLA to address the gap in accessible legal services for an underserved population within the API community,” said Brenton Inouye, Managing Attorney of LAFLA’s API Community Outreach Project, one of the first legal aid programs in the nation dedicated to API community members. “Our robust, specialized services have the power to transform the lives of many trafficking victims in our communities.”
Shawntel’s Equal Justice Works Fellowship is sponsored by Kirkland & Ellis.
“Kirkland & Ellis is proud to sponsor Shawntel’s groundbreaking project to advocate on behalf of exploited Filipino migrants. Her project will help a community that is often overlooked and desperately in need of the type of work Shawntel and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles will embark on over the coming year. We look forward to seeing the results of Shawntel’s project and applaud her commitment to providing legal representation to an underserved and vulnerable community,” said Karthik Ravishankar, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis.
###About Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) is a nonprofit law firm that seeks to achieve equal justice for people living in poverty across Greater Los Angeles. LAFLA changes lives through direct representation, systems change, and community empowerment. It has five offices in Los Angeles County, along with four Self-Help Legal Access Centers at area courthouses, and three domestic violence clinics to aid survivors.www.kirkland.com.