Farm worker housing. Immigration. For years, Puente has had help defending the rights of South Coast residents, thanks to valuable partnerships with California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (CRLA) and Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto.
When local renters were suffering adverse effects from leaky, moldy farm worker housing, Puente connected with CRLA. Four tenants had the courage to bring a lawsuit against their landlord, forcing him to improve the housing stock. Thanks to CRLA, they also won substantial damages.
Puente introduced CRLA to a wide group of locals, and provided the clients and attorneys with a private place to talk, says Lisel Holdenried, a migrant staff attorney who handled the case.
“It would have been much more difficult if it weren’t for Puente,” says Holdenried. “They’re the first place in the community that our clients would go to for all kinds of services that we can’t provide. They’re the eyes and ears on the ground.”
More recently, Puente and CRLA have teamed up on a campaign to advocate for the county to make more affordable housing available to farm workers on the coast. They also want to make it easier for those who might have buildings to convert into farm worker rental housing, to do so.
Whole families have found a way to stay in the U.S. with legal papers, thanks to Puente’s client referrals to Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto. The two nonprofits have been collaborating for years on cases that Puente doesn’t have the legal expertise to solve.
Community Legal Services defended a Pescadero teen who was threatened with being deported to Mexico and separated from his family. It has filed visas for South Coast residents who came to the U.S. seeking asylum from persecution at home, and others who have been victims of rape.
Rosa Gomez, an immigration attorney with Community Services, says Puente’s referrals have been “incredibly valuable.”
“They’re in the community, and we’re in East Palo Alto. The coast in particular is isolated and really under-served,” says Gomez.
This fall, attorneys with Community Legal Services held several workshops at Puente’s headquarters to brief young people about applying for DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Successful applicants will be able to legally work and drive in the U.S. for two years. Nearly 15 South Coast youth have applied so far.