La Raza Centro Legal (LRCL or Centro Legal) is a multicultural community social justice center based in the Mission District of San Francisco. Born out of the civil rights and Chicano movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s, Centro Legal was founded in 1973 by Latino law students to fill a gap in the availability of economically and culturally accessible legal services for the Bay Area’s Latino population. In its early years, the agency developed an immigration law practice to meet community needs and provided legal defense in some of the important political cases of the time. We later added a tenants’ rights project and a lawyer referral service in collaboration with a growing community of Latino lawyers. Since our founding, we have established a reputation of credibility in the community: as a source of trustworthy legal advice and referrals, as a place where clients will be treated with dignity and respect and where they will find advocates willing to fight for them and with them.
Immigration Law continues to be a primary focus of our work. The Workers’ Rights Program was created in 1991 and the Senior Law program began in 1998. In November 2014, we were pleased to be able to reinstate our Housing Law Program. All of these programs together constitute a vital part of our work through the present date.
As a part of SFILEN, La Raza Centro Legal provides comprehensive immigration legal services including asylum, Unaccompanied Minor Removal Defense, DACA, pre-DAPA, consular processing, family petitions, renewal of Lawful Permanent Residency, citizenship, preparation for citizenship interviews, TPS renewals, employment authorization document applications and renewals, VAWA applications, T and U visas, motions for Change of Venue, among other immigration applications and relief.
Maria-Victoria “Vicky” Castro is a 1st generation Latina, via Argentina and Peru, born in to the Mission District of San Francisco. Vicky pursued her Bachelors degree in UC Davis and earned a degree in Political Science (emphasis on Public Service) and Sociology (emphasis on Race Relations). Vicky then graduated from Golden Gate School of Law school in the Spring of 2006. Right after, she came to work at La Raza Centro Legal in Fall 2006. Vicky first worked in the Senior Law Program and then with the SF Day Labor program. In 2008, she became the Coordinator of the Immigration Law Program. Since then Ms. Castro has been providing direct legal services in immigration at Raza focusing primarily on representation in affirmative cases to USCIS and in limited instances representation in court. Just recently in August 2015 Vicky became the Interim Executive Director of La Raza.
Amanda Alvarado Ford, the LRCL Immigration Program Co-Coordinator, obtained her J.D. from Delaware Law School/Widener School of Law in 1993, and her B.A. from Stanford University in 1988, double major in International Relations and Spanish Literature. She has always been an outspoken advocate for immigrants and workers, and she commenced her legal career as a trial attorney with the National Labor Relations Board in New York City, Newark, New Jersey, and San Francisco, where she litigated cases involving unfair labor practices. In 2006, Amanda began work as a removal defense attorney/researcher and brief writer for an immigration attorney in private practice in the San Francisco peninsula. In 2012, Amanda began working as a pro bono immigration attorney at La Raza Centro Legal. Since 2014, Amanda has been a Co-Coordinator of the Immigration Program at LRCL, where she manages a caseload of DACA applications, U visas, Family petitions, Adjustment of Status applications, naturalization, consular processing, provisional waivers, and asylum cases. Amanda is the Pro Bono Liaison with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Santa Clara Valley Chapter, and is a candidate for Secretary of her AILA chapter for 2016 – 2017. In 2014 and 2015, Amanda was named an AILA Pro Bono Champion, which is one of the highest levels of volunteer recognition given to a member of AILA. She is admitted to the bar in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and is active in New Jersey. Her practice is limited to federal Immigration and Nationality law.
Pilar Eslava obtained her J.D. Law Degree at CEU University San Pablo in Madrid, Spain. After graduating, she worked for two years representing clients in civil court trials (breach of contract cases, family law cases and labor law). Pilar’s dedication for the Hispanic community started when she immigrated to the United States and worked at the San Francisco Univision TV station. As part of the local marketing and sales team, she participated in numerous community events and acquired in depth knowledge of the Hispanic immigrant population. Her interest in advocacy and immigrant rights, led her to transition her career into the practice of immigration law. She received her Master of Laws at UC Berkeley School of Law, Boalt Hall, in 2013. Before coming to LRCL, she worked on a contract basis at a private law firm, handling a wide range of immigration applications. She came to LRCL as an Immigration Contract Attorney in August of 2015. She currently manages a diverse caseload, including DACA applications, U visas, Family petitions, Adjustment of Status applications, naturalization, consular processing and provisional waivers. She is admitted to the California State Bar.
Jaclyn Kelley-Widmer is an immigration attorney serving as an Equal Justice Works Fellow at La Raza Centro Legal. Her project focuses on providing immigration representation to high school students and their families, especially DACA relief. Prior to this position, Ms. Kelley-Widmer was an attorney advisor at the San Francisco Immigration Court from 2013 to 2015. Ms. Kelley-Widmer has worked on a wide range of immigration cases, including humanitarian relief such as political asylum and visas for survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence. She is fluent in Spanish and has served as a legal interpreter. Ms. Kelley-Widmer graduated from the University of Michigan School of Law and earned degrees in writing and Spanish from Ithaca College. She is a member of the California bar. In addition to her work at La Raza Centro Legal, Ms. Kelley-Widmer is an adjunct instructor at the University of California Berkeley School of Law, where she teaches Academic Writing.