LOS ANGELES — From human trafficking to immigration services, to lobbying for civil rights, and policies in behalf of the Asian American community, for the past 36 years, the nonprofit group Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles — formerly known as the Asian Pacific American Law Center — had been at the forefront of community advocacy throughout Southern California.
But in recent months, the legal group has been struggling financially.
As it tries to deal with a $2 million budget shortfall, it was forced to reduce its staff.
Recently, 19 staffers were let go, including several Filipino workers — many whom rallied shortly after they received their layoff notices.
“My entire unit, composed of 2 DACA recipients were laid off and what message says to me is Advancing Justice does not care about DACA-mented people who are at the margins of this administration and would rather have us be on the sideline and not protect, my work is so important advancing policies at the state and national level to ensure all immigrant communities are safe,” said Anthony Ng, a former AAAJ-LA staffer.
“Where is the dignity in laying off people, and not even giving them two weeks notice. And there’s work I have to do, our communities are under attack at the moment, the public charge rule is happening, the case is happening, and they don’t care about that,” said RJ Ronquillo, another former staffer.
Despite some workers believing the layoffs were retaliation against their efforts to unionize, and negotiate for increased wages and benefits, the board of directors has said they have respected the rights of its staff to unionize and will continue to bargain in good faith.
In a statement to ABS-CBN News — the board of directors explained that the difficult decision to reduce staff was made after extensive input and analysis.
“We’ve been facing challenges and as a result we had to make some difficult decisions, they were extremely difficult for everyone given the human impact for them. The board and staff leadership are very focused on doing what we need to do to enable the organization to continue,” said Katherine Ku.
Meanwhile, Asian Americans Advancing Justice LA said it will continue providing critical services helping immigrants adjust their legal status and representing them in immigration court; providing free and low-cost citizenship education, helping domestic violence victims and navigating child custody issues.
“Our services may look a little different because we have to consolidate some of the programs for efficiency but we’re going to continue doing the work that we’ve always done.”
As for the former staffers, they’re trying to recover from their losses and are also turning to the community for help.
They have resorted to crowdfunding to help ease their sudden job loss, while they also vow to continue being active in the community.