Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law

"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those  
            who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."       
- Franklin D. Roosevelt                          

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Welcome to the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law. The Center is a non-profit, public interest legal foundation dedicated to furthering and protecting the civil, constitutional, and human rights of immigrants, refugees, children, and the poor.

Since its incorporation in 1980, under the leadership of a board of directors made up of civil rights attorneys, community advocates and religious leaders, the Center has provided a wide range of legal services to vulnerable low-income victims of human and civil rights violations and technical support and training to hundreds of legal aid attorneys and paralegals in the areas of immigration law, constitutional law, and how to litigate complex class action cases.

The Center has achieved major victories in class action cases in the courts of the United States and before international bodies that have directly benefited hundreds of thousands of indigent men, women and children.

Bienvenido a la página del Centro por Derechos Humanos y Ley Constitucional. El Centro es una organización no-lucrativa que se dedica para el bienestar público y para promover y proteger los derechos civiles, constitucionales, y humanos de inmigrantes, refugiados, menores de edad, y los pobres.

Les damos la bienvenida a estudiantes, abogados, u otros voluntarios disponibles a unirse con los esfuerzos del Centro a proteger y promover derechos humanos y civiles en el ámbito nacional e internation         

  • July 8, 2014 - The California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC), the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL), and other groups will conduct a commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the 2013 hunger strike initiated by prisoners in solitary confinement. The groups will announce the filing of a lawsuit charging Jeffrey Beard, Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), and CDCR of illegally refusing to publicly disclose information, data and studies regarding its solitary confinement rules, policies, and practices (download press release). The lawsuit will be brought under the Public Records Act in order to achieve greater transparency regarding the hunger strike and will be filed on July 8, 2014 in the Superior Court of Sacramento (download complaint). The 2013 hunger strike was joined by thousands of prisoners in and outside California and resulted in retaliatory actions being taken against those who participated in the hunger strike. For more information on prisoner rights project (select here).
  • May 19, 2014 - The Center for Human Rights and Constitutional law, California Families Against Solitary Confinement and numerous other groups and individuals involved with prison reform issues have sent a letter to the California Assembly Appropriations Committee members supporting AB 1652 (Ammiano). If enacted AB 1652 would bring to an end California's policy of keeping about 2,500 prisoners in solitary confinement for 6-25 years for alleged gang membership with no accompanying wrong doing. Select here to view/download copy of the AB 1652 letter. Select here if you wish to add your organization or name and title to the SB 892 letter. Prison reform groups have also sent a letter to the California Senate Appropriations Committee members opposing SB 892 (Hancock) in its present form. If enacted SB 892 would insert into state law the policy of keeping prisoners in solitary confinement for many years for alleged gang membership with no accompanying wrong doing. Select here to view/download copy of the SB 892 letter. Select here if you wish to add your organization or name and title to the SB 892 letter. By the end of this week the Senate and Assembly Appropriations Committees will vote on SB 892 (Hancock) and AB 1652 (Ammiano). Family members, advocates and organizations involved in solitary confinement issues should be in touch with Appropriations Committee members, their staff and Committee staff Tuesday-Thursday this week. A list of the key members may be view/downloaded by clicking here

  • The Center comments on Senator Hancock's proposed legislation S.B. 892 regarding California's solitary confinement practices.
April 25, 2014 - The Center distributed a letter to Senator Hancock and the members and staff of the Senate Appropriations Committee expressing concerns about proposed S.B. 892, which seeks to reform California's solitary confinement practices. Foremost, we expressed concern about the bill’s perpetuation of CDCR’s gang validation policy. Prominent organizations, advocates, and individuals signed on to the letter, including labor leaders Maria Elena Durazo and Mike Garcia, and influential groups such as League of United Latin American Citizens and Council on American-Islamic Relations. The letter may be downloaded here. Please contact us to sign on to our letter in support of our recommendations to CA legislators. 
Read the Center's proposed amendments to the language of Sen. Hancock's S.B. 892 here.
Read the type of legislation the Center, community-based organizations, prison reform experts and faith-based and labor leaders would support here. This proposed legislation has only three parts we consider essential to rational legislation for this term and could be expanded upon next term after data collection from CDCR. Our recommendations draw heavily from Assemblyman Ammiano's A.B. 1652 and harmonizes the positive aspects of S.B. 892.
Watch Peter Schey, President of CHRCL, testify at the Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing on April 28th with our concerns and recommendations regarding S.B. 892 here.

  • CHRCL urges Obama to grant lawful permanent residence to 2M immigrants without Congress's help

    April 14, 2014 - CHRCL sent a letter to President Obama in response to his request to the Department of Homeland Security on how to slow deportations. We do not believe asking for "Deferred Action Status" is enough. Our letter explains how aside from granting Deferred Action Status (temporary status) to the largest possible group of  immigrants, the President could also, with no change in federal laws, grant lawful permanent resident status possibly to as many as two million immigrants -- without requiring any action by Congress. The letter to Obama may be downloaded here.
We urge all advocates to review the Center's letter and to send similar or supportive letters to the President, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Attorney General, with copies to all other principle aides and principle lawyers listed here.
  • March 17, 2014 - Senator Loni Hancock today introduced new legislation to revise and reform solitary confinement conditions and procedures. (read more)
  • Now Available: February 2014 Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law Update on Federal and California Legislation Impacting Low-Income Immigrant Communities.  Select this link to download a PDF version of this legislative update. 

  • 2014 Updated Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law Manual on Constitutional Law, Due Process and Equal Protection for Legal Services and Pro Bono AttorneysClick here to download free PDF version of the updated manual. 
  • Immigration Reform:  Analysis of Senate Bill Proposals for Legalization
Nine significant elements of the Senate Bill's Legalization Proposal that must be changed to have an effective program that does not potentially exclude millions of low-income immigrants living in the U.S.  Click here to download report.

Current Work and Areas of Expertise

The Center is a legal services support center with recognized expertise in complex litigation and the substantive law relating to immigrants and refugees. A partial list of the Center's major litigation includes the following cases: Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982) (lead counsel for state-wide class of undocumented children denied access to public elementary education because of their immigration status); Reno v. Catholic Social Services, 509 U.S. 43 (1993) (national class action on behalf of persons unlawfully denied legalization under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986); Reno v. Flores, 507 U.S. 292 (1993) (national class action on behalf of children denied release on bail pending the outcome of deportation proceedings); League of United Latin American Citizens v. Wilson, 131 F.3d 1297 (9th Cir. 1997) (state-wide class action challenging constitutionality of state proposition denying health care, social services and education to suspected undocumented immigrants); and Orantes-Hernandez v. Smith, 541 F.Supp. 351 (C.D. Cal. 1982) (national class of Salvadoran nationals seeking political asylum in the United States).

Our work focuses on the following: 1. Federal litigation in support of abused, abandoned, and neglected immigrant and refugee children eligible to legalize status as Special Immigrant Juveniles. 2. Enforcing the rights of children detained pending deportation or removal to appropriate placement and services. 3. Federal litigation involving efforts by state and local governments to enforce federal immigration laws. 4. Litigation, legislative advocacy and policy analysis to address the rights of immigrants to state driver’s licenses. 5. Protecting the rights of immigrant survivors of crime, human trafficking, and domestic violence. We also work in other areas of law and policy identified as priorities by IOLTA-recipients. CHRCL welcomes the input of Trust Fund programs into its priority setting process.

Read about our legal support services here.

Casa Kauai

photoThe Casa Kauai's mission is to provide a relaxed atmosphere and high quality space in a peaceful and natural environment far from the daily stress of one's usual work for the creation, discussion, and development of projects and programs related to the protection and promotion of social justice, including human rights, economic rights, environmental protection, and cultural preservation.

We also intend that the retreat center be available for use by individuals who are making a significant contribution to the cause of social justice through their activities and who would like to spend time in a peaceful setting to rest and recuperate from their work.

Click here to learn more about reserving Casa Kauai.

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Solitary Confinement in CA Prisons

photoImmigrant Family and the Defense of Marriage Act

Casa Libre: shelter for homeless unaccompanied immigrant children

Voces Unidas: a bi-lingual nationwide resource database for abused women and children and their advocates

The Legalization Site

Unaccompanied Minors Project

Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law Websites: