We can keep people in the US today

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A family together

Maria and her family had suffered unimaginable violence. Finally, they were eligible for green cards, so she applied. Months later, she received news that shocked her. Everyone had been approved but her son, Jose. He may be sent back to a country he barely knew.

Two weeks before the application was due, Maria found Open Door Legal. We collected the necessary evidence, translated her responses, and overnighted the paperwork that made a case for why Jose should stay in the country. A few months later, Maria got a very special call. Jose’s green card had just arrived in the mail. Now, he could celebrate his first thanksgiving as a lawful permanent resident. 

The problem

Immigrants are being wrongfully denied status because of complications within the application process. Most funding goes to deportation defense, and application assistance is largely ignored.

 

Our solution

Provide comprehensive immigration services so that more people can stay in the US. By actually getting status for our undocumented neighbors, we will not only keep them in the country: we give them a path to upward mobility.

 

Immigration denials are on the rise

In 2019, over 76,000 people like Jose had their green card requests denied.¹ Many of these rejections are due to application mistakes, which easily can be avoided with legal help.

In addition, reporting from NPR shows that Asylum seekers are 5x more likely to win their cases when they have legal representation than applicants without full representation.²

Access to legal help improves an immigrant’s chances of staying in the country.

  • Represented immigrants 63% 63%
  • Unrepresented Immigrants 13% 13%

Help more families like Maria’s

CITATIONS

1. American University, Key Studies and Data About How Legal Aid Improves Housing Outcomes https://www.american.edu/spa/jpo/toolkit/upload/housing-7-30-19.pdf

2. George Washington Law School, In Pursuit of Justice? Case Outcomes and the Delivery of Unbundled Legal Services https://scholarship.law.gwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi

Ever since childhood, our co-founder Adrian has been dedicated to reducing poverty.

He studied systemic poverty in college and went to work in the field for a few years. Eventually, he had a thesis that legal aid was the most cost-effective way to address poverty in America. He wrote up a business plan and used it to apply to law school. 

The idea was to create the country’s first system of universal access to civil legal representation that ensures everyone can obtain timely, competent legal help for any legal issue, regardless of ability to pay. That had never been done before in the history of the United States.

In law school, he met Virginia, our Programs Director. Together, they co-founded the organization, two weeks after Adrian passed the bar.

When we opened we put a sign in the window, and with just that marketing and almost no other outreach we were overwhelmed with requests for help from people with good cases who had been turned away everywhere else.

Our first year we had revenue of $35,000. We would hand shred documents because a shredder was too expensive. Despite the financial challenges, we were able to work on over 280 cases in everything from housing law to family law to consumer law in the first year alone.

The hours were extreme, the pay was low, and the learning curve was steep. Still, we persisted. We knew that almost everyone we helped was not able to receive services anywhere else. Eventually, we attracted the interest of funders. We tripled our revenue for several years in a row. In 2015, we won the Bay Area Google Impact Challenge, which enabled us to expand even more. In 2019, we secured additional funding from the city that allowed us to open two new centers in the Excelsior and Western Addition.

As of 2020, our staff has grown to 27 full-time employees. We’ve shown that universal access is possible. Now, we plan to scale city-wide, make San Francisco the first city in the country’s history to have universal access to legal help, and become a model for national replication.