Law fellow to lead legal clinic for trafficked Filipino domestic workers
LOS ANGELES – Assigning a Filipino American Equal Justice Works Fellow, the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) is launching a pioneering legal clinic to support victims of labor trafficking from the Philippines.
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.
Spearheading the clinic, the first of its kind in Southern California, is Shawntel Williams through her 2023 fellowship with Equal Justice Works, the nation’s largest facilitator of opportunities in public interest law.
Williams, a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Law, is fluent in Tagalog and will work closely with community organizations and LAFLA’s pro bono partners.
They will provide comprehensive services and education for the Filipino migrant community on issues such as wage theft, public benefits claims, and immigration relief.
The clinic will be held virtually and in person and will “help empower migrant workers to achieve economic freedom and stability by providing holistic, culturally intelligent, and linguistically appropriate services,” LAFLA stated in a release.
“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),” Williams 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.”
“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.
“Kirkland & Ellis is proud to sponsor Shawntel’s groundbreaking project to advocate on behalf of exploited Filipino migrants,” said Karthik Ravishankar, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis.