Legal Assistance Helps CPCC Students Find Opportunity

Janessa CCLA WebJanessa, 21, had been taking classes at Central Piedmont Community College in hopes of earning a degree that will put her on a better path in life when she walked into the campus Single Stop office last fall.
A few years ago, she found herself hanging out with the wrong friends and making bad decisions that resulted in misdemeanor charges for larceny and drug possession. The charges were ultimately dismissed, but they remained on her record. She had no idea that these mistakes would follow her into her adult life. It wasn’t until she started applying for jobs that she realized she had a criminal record.

She remembers interviewing for a local retail position and sailing through the three interviews necessary for the job.
“I was doing great, but then it came down to them asking if I had any problems with them running a background check,” Janessa says. “I knew what they would find, so I told them about the charges.”
She didn’t get the job. Every time she filled out a job application, the necessary background check was her barrier – to employment, to a stable income, to opportunity.
A friend told her about the legal assistance Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy offers to students through the Single Stop program. She met with an attorney not knowing if she could even get assistance,. She was surprised to learn she was eligible to have the charges removed from her record by applying for an expunction.
With the help of her attorney, she applied and waited six months for a decision from the state.
In April, a few weeks before graduation, she got the answer that would ultimately open the door to opportunity.
Her application had been approved, and she no longer had charges listed on her criminal record.
“Now I can do anything,” she says. “The whole world is open to me.”
After years of trying to put her mistakes in the past, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy helped Janessa find a fresh start as she heads out into the world with her degree in hand and a determination to succeed.

Learn more about our work through the Single Stop Program.

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ICE in Our Court Threatens Public Safety, Disrupts Pursuit of Justice

As community partners, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Safe Alliance work together every day to ensure the safety and rights of immigrants who are survivors of domestic violence.

Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials entered the Mecklenburg County Courthouse to arrest a woman and her 16-year-old son, leaving her 2-year-old child behind in the court’s day care center as they took her into ICE custody and placed her in removal proceedings. This woman and her son are survivors of domestic violence perpetrated by a U.S. citizen.

Our organizations are deeply concerned that the continued presence of ICE at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse will negatively impact the willingness to report the crime of domestic violence and threaten overall public safety in our community.

Many immigrant domestic violence survivors we assist have been abused, threatened, manipulated and controlled by an abusive partner as they have settled in the United States.  Abusers often attempt to manipulate immigration officials and the courts, using these systems as a tool to further control and psychologically abuse their victim.

The survivors we work with often share stories of perpetrators who threaten to have them jailed or deported if they seek help. It’s also common for perpetrators to fabricate criminal accusations against victims to maintain power and control over them and their children.

We are working with law enforcement and our courts to ensure abusers are not allowed to exercise these tactics and that immigrant victims of crime are able to pursue justice safely in Mecklenburg County.

Similar ICE arrests have increased in courts across the country over the last 18 months even though state supreme court justices have asked the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to end this practice, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s description of an individual’s right to petition for redress of grievances in court as “among the most precious of the liberties safeguarded by the Bill of Rights …”

Allowing ICE in our courts deliberately threatens this right and our public safety. The court cannot function if victims, witnesses, and criminal defendants risk deportation simply by coming to court.

Our courts can only serve our community effectively when individuals feel safe coming forward to seek help. The threat of ICE in the court has a chilling effect on immigrants, and its confirmed presence will certainly deter willingness to report crime, silencing survivors of abuse, disrupting the pursuit of justice in our courts and endangering public safety.

Imagine if a loved one couldn’t report the crime of domestic violence or sexual assault because doing so would rip your family apart. No one should be forced to choose between these terrible options.

That is why Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Safe Alliance believe safety must be our community’s top priority, and we will work together with our partners, advocating against ICE presence in our court.

Download this statement

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We Can Do Better: End Zero Tolerance; Support Family Safety

As a champion for those in need, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy fights for family unity every day. We condemn the Trump administration’s  “zero tolerance” policy, which has led to the mass separation of children from their parents when they cross the U.S.-Mexico border fleeing unspeakable violence and trauma in their home countries.
There is no law that requires the Department of Homeland Security to separate families. Today, the president admitted as much when he issued an  Executive Order directing the Attorney General to request that the Flores settlement be modified to allow entire families to be detained in immigration prisons during criminal prosecutions. Since 1997, the Flores settlement has prohibited the U.S. government from jailing migrant children.  
This is unacceptable. If the Flores settlement were modified in the manner proposed by the president, then children would be jailed while their parents are prosecuted. Furthermore, altering the Flores settlement will allow the administration to keep families in prison while they fight their asylum cases – which can take years. The Flores settlement arose because of the inhumane conditions families were being held in. Many of these parents and children are asylum seekers. This is an attempt to prevent Central Americans from availing themselves of our asylum laws, or to punish them for seeking asylum by keeping them incarcerated. The solution to this crisis is for the Trump Administration to stop its “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting every migrant attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.
Once released from detention at the border, many of these children will arrive in Charlotte to await proceedings before the Charlotte Immigration Court. As Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy prepares to offer them legal assistance, here are additional policies that will impact these families:

Asylum Defense

Last Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued  an opinion overturning protections for victims of domestic violence seeking asylum in the United States. This opinion will require many asylum seekers who are victims of domestic violence and gang activity in Central America to appeal their cases multiple times, resulting in certain deportation for immigrants without attorneys. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy represents many children and some adults in domestic violence and gang-related asylum claims. The Attorney General’s opinion has made our representation more difficult and will require additional resources.

Protecting Sponsors

Since 2011, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy has been an Office of Refugee Resettlement approved site for the completion of the required background checks necessary for a child to be released from custody to a sponsor. In addition to the background checks, we provide a legal orientation for the sponsors explaining the immigration legal process the children will be subject to. These sponsors are almost always family members of the children. In the event they are not family members, there is a requirement that the sponsor have a pre-existing relationship with the child’s family.

In April, the administration changed these procedures to not only collect fingerprints from potential sponsors, but also fingerprints of any other adults in their households with no guarantee that the information won’t be used for immigration enforcement.These enhanced requirements have created a chilling effect, forcing families and sponsors to ensure the release, safety and well-being of these detained children at the risk of exposing their own immigration status to the federal government. As potential sponsors choose not to accept this responsibility out of fear, children remain in overcrowded shelters. The average duration of stay has risen from 34 days in December 2016 to 57 days. Under this policy, the wait will only grow longer.

Access to Legal Representation

Regardless of what plays out at the federal level, these children and their families will
need legal representation. NO ONE, not even a small child, has the right to legal representation in immigration court. 

Many of these children’s cases will be processed here in Charlotte’s Immigration Court, adding to the already great need for legal assistance here. These cases will add to the more than 300 open cases Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy currently has for unaccompanied children, most of whom, have been subjected to some form of trauma over the course of their young lives. They have witnessed horrific violence or been subject to it in their home country or on their long journey to the U.S. These cases will take years to process through an overburdened immigration court system.

As a community and nation of immigrants, WE CAN DO BETTER.

How to Help

Contact your representatives. You have the power to change this narrative. While the administration has full power to end this policy on its own, Congress is considering legislation that will force the administration to change course as well as enact stronger immigration laws. Urge members of Congress to vote down the two anti-immigrant bills moving through the House this week: one proposed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte and another proposed by House Speaker Paul Ryan. Neither bill adequately addresses family separation and child detention, nor does it offer a lasting solution to the administration’s decision to end DACA. A vote is expected on Thursday, June 21.
Share this message. Circulate this information and share on social media to let your networks know what is going on. The deliberate separation of families is a moral crisis that we as a community must condemn.
Stay informed. Join us for a community teach-in on what happens to unaccompanied children when they arrive in Charlotte and learn about ways to support them in our community. Monday July 2 U.S. Border Community Teach-in Presentation
Sign up for ACTION ALERTS for updates on policy changes as they develop.
Learn more about our Immigrant Justice Program.
Support our work. We fight for family safety, economic security and stability for all people, regardless of immigration status, but we can’t do it without you. We are the largest non-profit provider of legal assistance to immigrants in North and South Carolina. When you give to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, your contribution goes directly toward our mission of pursuing justice for the most vulnerable in our community.

Give today. Change tomorrow.
Become a champion for those in need.

Donate Now


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Your Voice Strengthens Consumer Financial Protections

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is requesting public feedback about its consumer complaint process and how it handles consumer complaints by Monday, June 4.

To date, the CFPB has received over 1.5 million consumer complaints. The complaint database is invaluable to consumers; their advocates; and, our clients. It is often the most efficient and effective way for consumers to resolve problems with large financial institutions.

The complaint process with the CFPB has allowed our consumer attorneys to more effectively advocate for consumers in foreclosures by requiring servicers to respond to complaints about mortgage servicing, loss mitigation, excessive fees and other issues within 15 days after they are contacted by the CFPB. Many times, that will be enough to resolve an issue and save a consumer’s home.

The complaint process also allows advocacy groups to track recurrent problems with various companies and financial institutions. The complaint process gives consumers a recourse when they are treated unfairly or they are victims of predatory practices or illegal fees. Since 2008, the CFPB has returned $11.8 billion in relief to consumers, largely as a result of its complaint process that provides the starting point for any enforcement work.

Comments to the CFPB made be made by clicking their link here:


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Detained by 287g

Detained by 287gThe future of the 287g program is on the ballot in the primary for Mecklenburg County Sheriff as residents go to the polls today. For 12 years, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Department has chosen to participate in the 287g program, a voluntary formal agreement with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to assist in implementing federal immigration enforcement at the local level by targeting, arresting and holding residents living in our community without a legal immigration status.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy believes these policies have caused great harm to our community by undermining public safety, depriving individuals due process, wasting county resources, and exposing tax payers to possible legal settlements. After 12 years and more than 15,000 deportations in Mecklenburg County because of 287g, it’s time to terminate the program and find solutions that promote community safety while protecting immigrant families.

2018-5-8 Immigration debate in North Carolina election has national implications

Watch immigration attorney Maureen Abell talk about her client’s experience with 287g on the NBC Nightly News.




Ernesto (name changed to protect the client’s identity.), 19, is one of thousands who have been negatively impacted by the 287g program. He came to the United States three years ago from Honduras.

The waves of gang violence sweeping the country has broken his family and his community. As a young teenager, he witnessed the gangs target and murder his father’s side of the family. When his father was ultimately kidnapped and killed, he faced hard choices: join the gang or die.

Instead, he fled; leaving behind his surviving family and the life he knew in hopes of finding safety elsewhere, hopefully in the United States.

Along the way, he met up with others trying to reach the U.S.-Mexico border. They stuck together assuming strength in numbers would offer more protection from the danger they would encounter throughout the month-long journey, using any means of transport available to them.

“When we were crossing in a boat, the boat sank, and two girls died,” he recalls.

Gangs they encountered along the way were just as dangerous as those he fled. A mother and daughter in their group were robbed and raped.

He arrived at the border in Brownsville, Texas, where he was detained after presenting himself to border officials.

“There was no sense of me running,” Ernesto says. “I would have been in more trouble.”

‘Try Not to Go Back’

Because he was a minor when he arrived in the U.S., Ernesto was able to go live with his step-grandfather in North Carolina while waiting for his immigration case to move through the backlogged immigration court system.

He came to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy for assistance with his case in the Charlotte Immigration Court.  Immigration attorney Maureen Abell advised him to apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, a legal immigration status that protects children who are victims of abuse and violence in their home countries. With this status, Ernesto would be able to apply for and receive a green card, enabling him to remain in the U.S. and build a safe and stable life.

As he waited for his application to be processed, he tried to adapt. It was hard. He didn’t speak English or understand aspects of his new community, but it was still better than the consuming violence in Honduras.

“It’s not easy,” he says. “You try the best you can to not go back.”

He tried going to school, but only went for a year.  There wasn’t much assistance or patience for a teenager who didn’t speak English and had a limited education.

He applied for a work permit and soon found work in construction, working on major projects around the Charlotte region.

His case was moving forward, and he had a strong case for receiving a green card that would offer him the path to U.S. citizenship.

That all changed last fall when Ernesto was riding in a car that was involved in a hit and run. He and the others in the vehicle were arrested after they fled the accident.

“They ran, and I ran too,” he says. “That’s how I got in trouble.”

He couldn’t afford to pay the $2,500 bond and remained in the Mecklenburg County Jail.

By the next day, he had a hold from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under the 287g program, a voluntary agreement Mecklenburg County has with the federal government to arrest immigrants without legal status and house them in its jail before transferring them to ICE custody.

Because he had already been working with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Ernesto knew he had an application for legal status pending and he sought advice from his attorney. Abell advised him to stay in jail and seek additional legal assistance from a criminal lawyer.

“I knew ICE would come and get me if I got out,” he says.

Abell says Ernesto was lucky because he had access to legal assistance that helped him understand his options.

“He didn’t even know he needed a [criminal] lawyer,” she says. “I was able to make sure he knew who to call, and he got really good help.”

He remained in jail until an eyewitness account proved he was not the driver and cleared him of his charges. By that point, Ernesto had spent three months in jail, waiting.

He learned that his charges would be dismissed and that he would be released next day. Instead, ICE agents came to the jail and picked him up.

“They got me, and they wanted me to sign my voluntary departure,” Ernesto says. “I didn’t want to sign.”

After already spending three months in jail for charges that were ultimately dropped, Ernesto was detained by ICE officials under the 287g program and spent an additional three months in an immigration detention facility.

A voluntary departure would have sent him back to Honduras and certain death. When he refused, ICE transferred him to Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, where the conditions were “very bad” and the guards taunted him.

“I didn’t feel safe,” he says. “The guards made fun of us because we were here ‘illegally.’”

He spent eight days in the same clothes. When he asked guards for something else to wear, they laughed at him and said, “just go buy some.”

When Abell found out Ernesto had been detained, she traveled to Stewart to advocate for his release, which only came after three months of detention at a bail price three times higher than what he would have paid in Mecklenburg County.

Abell shakes her head at how quickly situation escalated after Ernesto’s arrest under the 287g program: “[The police] didn’t ask about his legal status beyond, ‘Were you born here?’ He had documentation on him at the time explaining that he had a green card pending. They should have known he had a case pending. They put a voluntary deportation order in front of him instead.”

Ernesto’s story is one of thousands behind the 287g program that the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Department has participated in since 2006. More than 15,000 people in Mecklenburg County have been deported since the program’s inception. While the Sheriff’s Department highlights deportations involving people convicted of violent crimes, the majority have involved people charged with minor offenses, all while eroding trust in law enforcement from the immigrant community.

“Supporters of 287(g) would have us believe that the program only effects dangerous or violent criminals, but if we look at the all the cases referred to ICE, we know it’s broader than that,” Abell says.

Instead Abell says the program only works to accelerate deportations of people like Ernesto, not to improve overall public safety in Mecklenburg County.

For this reason, only 60 counties across the U.S. participate in the program. It’s also why Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy supports ending the program.

“ICE was notified when he was arrested and charged, despite the fact that he had an immigration case pending,” Abell says. “When his charges were ultimately dropped, he was still held so that ICE could get him, despite his legal situation.”

“No Life. No Future”

Even though the past six months have been a nightmare, Ernesto realizes how lucky he is in so many ways. He’s lucky to be alive, to have escaped gang violence, to have family in the U.S. that cares for him and to have advocates, like Abell, fighting for his continued safety.

He also knows he wouldn’t have gotten far trying to fight his legal battle alone.

“Without an attorney, I would still be [in Stewart],” he says.

And if he had remained in the detention facility without an attorney, there would have been little he could do to avoid deportation, even with a pending green card application.

At the thought of returning to Honduras, Ernesto stares at the floor and takes a deep breath: “There’s no life, no future. My brother was murdered on Saturday. They burned down the house. I don’t know where the family is. The same would happen to me.”

Ernesto is one of hundreds of people in need of legal help assisted each year by Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Immigrant Justice Program. Without Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, there are few resources and options available for free and low-cost legal help in the immigrant community.

As the largest non-profit legal service provider practicing before the Charlotte Immigration Court, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy continues to stand with our immigrant neighbors, advocating for inclusion and fairness under the law to ensure their safety, security and stability in our community.

Read the community letter Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy signed in support of ending the 287g program.

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DACA Update: What We Know

What happened?

On April 24, a federal district court in Washington, D.C. ruled that the termination of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) was unlawful and gave the Trump administration 90 days to explain their reasoning for ending the program. If the administration fails to provide a sufficient response, the court will require USCIS to accept new DACA applications.

Pursuant to another court ruling, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is currently accepting only DACA renewals.

Who does this impact?

Everyone with DACA. but especially young immigrants, who, based on their age, became eligible for DACA after the Trump administration decided to end the program. This also includes people who have always qualified but chose not to apply and anyone whose DACA has been expired for more than a year but wants to reapply.

Who qualifies for DACA?

  • Anyone under 31 years of age as of June 15, 2012;
  • who came to the U.S. while under the age of 16; continuously resided in the U.S. from June 15, 2007 to the present, entered the U.S. without inspection or fell out of lawful visa status before June 15, 2012;
  • were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making the request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
  • are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or armed forces;
  • have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor, or more than three misdemeanors of any kind;
  • and do not pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Things potential new applicants can do right now since they can’t yet apply:

  • Collect your documents including school and medical records, proof of physical presence, criminal record, immigration history, and anything else that demonstrates you qualify for DACA.
  • Start saving money for the filing fee. The $495 fee cannot be waived. There have been many charitable funds to help DACA recipients pay this fee, but you are not guaranteed assistance.
  • Get a legal consult with a qualified immigration attorney. Don’t fall prey to scams, notario fraud, or simply making an uninformed decision. You should know your immigration options and legal rights before filing any immigration application
  • Contact Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Immigrant Justice Program for advice on the issue of first time DACA applications and renewals at 704-971-4790

***Be wary of any individual or organization requesting large sums of money to prepare a first time DACA application at this time. We will not know for at least 90 days whether the government will accept new applications.***

Things individuals and organizations assisting DACA recipients can do:

  • Share this DACA Update Fact Sheet with others to spread the word about what is happening.
  • Refer anyone with questions to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy 704-971-4790.


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Ken Schorr Marks 30 Years as Executive Director

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is proud to announce the establishment of the Kenneth L Schorr Sustainable Projects Fund in honor of Ken Schorr’s 30 years as the organization’s executive director.

Schorr was recognized for his service with the announcement of the fund at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s “Justice Through the Decades” concluding 50th anniversary celebration April 19, at the Mint Museum Randolph.

Ken Schorr New Executive Director Charlotte ObserverKen Schorr began his service to the organization in April 1988.

Early in his tenure, Schorr made funding diversification a priority to stabilize the organization’s work to pursue justice. This strategy allowed Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy to make the tough, but necessary, decision to stop accepting federal Legal Services Corporation funding in 2002.

The decision was controversial, but the choice was clear: Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy would continue serving people in need, while fighting the root causes of poverty.

Today, thanks to Schorr’s stewardship, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy draws from more than 40 funding sources to annually serve thousands of people in the Charlotte region.

The “Ken Fund” will ensure this legacy continues by going on to serve as a flexible, stable source of funding to support Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s integral community services.

Learn more about the Ken Fund and how you can support advocacy for people in need for generations to come.

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Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy Celebrates Justice Through the Decades

50th Anniversary Culminates in Celebration of History, Impact

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy (formerly Legal Services of Southern Piedmont) celebrated 50 years of pursuing justice at its “Justice Through the Decades” celebration at the Mint Museum Randolph April 19.

The event presented by Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP and Moore & Van Allen LLP marked the culmination of the organization’s 50th anniversary celebration, which featured a variety of community service initiatives and events to celebrate the organization’s history as a champion for those in need ensuring security, safety and stability for all in the Charlotte region.

The evening celebration which featured live music “through the decades” by Smitty Flynn and the Rivieras as well as exhibits of history, photographs and multimedia presentations displaying Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s impact, began with a short program highlighting how far the organization has come and where it is going in the next 50 years of advocacy for low-income people.

“Since 1967, this type of advocacy has positively impacted hundreds of thousands of low- income needy families in the Charlotte area and across the state,” said attorney Doug Sea during the program.

Sea has been with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy since 1984, using litigation to ensure the needs of low-income clients are being met and their civil rights are upheld.

“What makes our systemic work so effective is that it is based almost entirely on the stories of our individual clients,” Sea said. “We see the on-the-ground impact of these practices and we work to stop that harm from happening again to someone else.”

The program’s highlight came when Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy board of directors president Todd Stillerman recognized executive director Ken Schorr for his 30 years of service with the organization with the announcement of the Kenneth L Schorr Sustainable Projects Fund in his honor.

Schorr made funding diversification a priority to stabilize the organization’s work to pursue justice early in his tenure, laying the foundation to make the tough, but necessary, decision for Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy to stop accepting federal Legal Services Corporation funding in 2002 to continue addressing the root causes of poverty through systemic change.

The “Ken Fund” will ensure this legacy continues as a flexible, stable source of funding to support Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s integral community services.

“Justice Through the Decades” and the previous year of service and celebration would not have been possible without Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s 50th anniversary sponsors.

Their unwavering support of Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy this year and in many years prior has enabled this organization to serve the community in ways that have shaped local and state law, policy and procedures to improve access to housing, healthcare, safety, economic security, family stability and ultimately, opportunity.

In addition to the evening’s event sponsors, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner and Moore & Van Allen, 50th anniversary celebration sponsors included:

  • Alston & Bird LLP
  • McGuireWoods
  • Parker Poe
  • Robinson Bradshaw
  • Bank of America
  • Dechert LLP
  • Hunton Andrews Kurth
  • Katten Munchin & Rosenman LLP
  • Kilpatrick Townsend
  • Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft
  • Hedrick Gardner Kincheloe & Garofalo LLP
  • K&L Gates
  • Mayer Brown
  • Winston & Strawn LLP
  • Bradley
  • Duke Energy
  • Mecklenburg Bar Foundation
  • Nelson Mullins
  • Poyner Spruill
  • Troutman Sanders
  • U.S. Bank
  • Wells Fargo

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy (formerly Legal Services of Southern Piedmont) provides expert legal advice and representation to those who cannot afford but desperately need them, something the organization has been doing since its inception in 1967. Each year, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy serves 3,500 families each year who are facing a crisis of safety, shelter, health or income. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy provides committed advocacy work on behalf of clients, resulting in policy changes at the local and national level to impact a greater number of people. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is a champion for those in need, ensuring their safety, security and stability.

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It’s Time to End 287(g)

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is proud to join more than 40 local organizations and groups in signing on to a letter asking Sheriff Irwin Carmichael to end Mecklenburg County’s 287(g) program. We urge you to read the letter below to learn about how the 287(g) program is harming our community.

As the largest non-profit legal service provider practicing before the Charlotte Immigration Court, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy continues to stand with our immigrant neighbors, advocating for inclusion and fairness under the law to ensure their safety, security and stability in our community.

Sheriff Irwin Carmichael
Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office
801 E. 4th Street
Charlotte, NC 28202

Dear Sheriff Carmichael,

We, the undersigned organizations and community advocates, urge you to immediately end all formal collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), including the voluntary 287g agreement and ICE detainers. These policies have caused great harm to our community, they undermine public safety, deprive individuals due process, waste county resources, and expose tax payers to possible legal settlements. After 12 years and more than 15,000 deportations in Mecklenburg County because of 287g, it’s time to terminate the program and find solutions that promote community safety while protecting immigrant families.

Since the start of the 287g program in 2006, we’ve had thousands of deportations, many of them for minor infractions or misdemeanors. While your office continues to highlight a handful of cases of individuals with serious crimes, the fact is that a great majority of deportations under the 287g program are due to minor offenses. In fiscal year 2010, for example, more than 50% of ICE detainers in Mecklenburg were due to traffic violations. The Sheriff’s office is deporting fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters, disrupting and separating families in the process.

We know these stories well, people like Holman Acosta who was arrested for not having a driver’s license while on his way home from his son’s soccer game. Holman was forced to leave the country and is now living in Honduras, thousands of miles away from his U.S. citizen family. Alejandro Lopez was arrested on his way to work for not having a driver’s licence and placed in deportation proceedings because of 287g. Gus Zamudio, a DACA student from Northwest School of the Arts, was convicted of a misdemeanor and forced to accept a “voluntary departure” instead of fighting his case from Stewart Detention Center, known for its human rights violations. Gus was not able to walk in his graduation and is now living alone in Mexico.

The 287g program does not improve relations between immigrant communities and law enforcement, in fact it creates distrust and fear. Only 60 of the 3,007 counties in the United States have 287g agreements. The overwhelming majority of law enforcement agencies across the nation have declined to participate in the program. Additionally, the program runs counteractive to the efforts of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department to build trust with the immigrant community.

Legal actions have been taken against the program in several jurisdictions across the country, exposing localities to pay costly settlements, all covered with taxpayer dollars. Besides the possible liability, 287g focuses the county’s scarce resources in a strategy that has not been independently proven to decrease crime. While the federal government covers some of the cost associated with this program, localities cover most of the expenses. In the first year of the program, the estimated cost of 287g in Mecklenburg County was $5.3 million, it is unclear how much money it has cost taxpayers since then because the Sheriff’s office has refused to publicize this information.

It is because of these reasons that we demand that as a public servant tasked with the responsibility to protect and serve the community of Mecklenburg County, you terminate the voluntary 287g program and refuse to honor ICE holds in county jails. These demands are in line with the 2015 Charlotte’s Immigration Integration Task Force recommendations. We believe that Mecklenburg County should be a place where all people feel welcomed, safe, and protected.


Comunidad Colectiva

  1. ACLU of North Carolina
  2. Action NC
  3. Alerta Migratoria
  4. American Friends Service Committee
  5. Antoine Ensley, Candidate for Mecklenburg County Sheriff
  6. CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities
  7. Camino Church
  8. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy
  9. Charlotte Democratic Socialists of America
  10. Charlotte Latin Pride
  11. Charlotte Pride
  12. Charlotte Women’s March
  13. Charlotte Uprising
  14. El Centro Hispano, Inc.
  15. Emily Zimmern, Co-Chair Charlotte’s Immigration Integration Task Force 2015
  16. Familias Unidas
  17. Garry McFadden, Candidate for Mecklenburg County Sheriff
  18. HANA Center
  19. Indivisible NC District 9
  20. Jamie Hildreth, Candidate for County Commissioner At-Large
  21. Justice & Respect in the Reinforcing Industry Coalition (JRRIC)
  22. Korean Resource Center
  23. Latin American Coalition
  24. Latino Commission On AIDS
  25. Libre
  26. Meck PAC (Mecklenburg LGBTQ Polical Action Committee)
  27. National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON)
  28. National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild
  29. National Korean American Service & EducationConsortium (NAKASEC)
  30. National Organization for Women (N.O.W) Charlotte
  31. New South Progressives
  32. North Carolina Asian Americans Together
  33. Rev. Leach, Senior Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte
  34. Safety, Accountability, Fairness, Equity (SAFE) Coalition NC
  35. Southeast Immigrant Rights Network (SEIRN)
  36. Siembra NC
  37. Sil Ganzo, Founder of ourBRIDGE for Kids
  38. Southeast Asian Coalition (SEAC)
  39. Stan Greenspon Center for Peace and Social Justice
  40. Students for Education Reform National
  41. Students for Education Reform NC
  42. UNC Charlotte’s Center for Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Studies
  43. Unidad Nacional de Hispanos Aliados (UNISAL)


1 Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Department, ICE Report 1/29/2018,
2 Hannah Gill and Mai Thi Nguyen, The 287(g) Program: The Costs and Local Immigration Enforcement
in North Carolina Communities . The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2010.
3 Randy Capps, Delegation and Divergence: A Study of 287(g) State and Local  Immigration Enforcement . Migration Policy Institute, 2011.
4 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Delegation of Immigration Section 287(g) Immigration and Nationality Act, 01/10/18.
5 American Immigration Council. The 287(g) Program: An Overview , 2017.
6 Hannah Gill and Mai Thi Nguyen, The 287(g) Program: The Costs and Local Immigration Enforcement in North Carolina Communities . The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2010
7 Charlotte City Government. Immigration Integration Task Force Report, 2015.


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Ted Fillette Announces Retirement After 45 Years of Service

After 45 years of service, Theodore O. Fillette, assistant director and senior managing attorney at Legal Aid of North Carolina-Charlotte, has announced he will retire at the end of March.

Ted Fillette

Ted Fillette

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy thanks Fillette for his tireless service as a champion for those in need and his accomplishments at the state and federal level that have established housing rights for all North Carolinians.

Fillette joined Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, formerly Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, in 1973. He has served with the Center and partner agencies for his entire career, as a leading expert and advocate for the housing rights of low-income people across the state.

Over the course of his career, Fillette has represented countless individual clients, served as counsel or co-counsel on precedent-setting cases in the state’s highest courts and federal court, and successfully advocated to establish fair and equitable housing laws.

In 2002, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy split into two organizations. Fillette joined the branch that became Legal Aid of North Carolina-Charlotte, closely coordinating services and resources with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy. Since then, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina have been partners in justice, running a joint annual fundraising campaign, the Access to Justice Campaign, and the Access to Justice Pro Bono Partners Program.

After March 31, Cindy Patton, who has been with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid since 1992, will remain managing attorney of the Charlotte office serving in her administrative capacity.

Thomas P. Holderness, of Robinson Bradshaw, will join the staff and continue Fillette’s work supporting and training Legal Aid staff in Charlotte and across the state in their litigation efforts at the trial and appellate court levels. Holderness, a longtime volunteer, will also offer support and co-counseling to pro bono attorneys volunteering with Legal Aid.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy will recognize Fillette’s career and significant contributions to the state on March 8, at 5:30 p.m. during 50 Years of Justice, a program with the Mecklenburg County Bar celebrating Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s 50-year history.

Donate NowYou can help us carry on Ted’s legacy by making a gift to the Access to Justice Campaign. If you’ve already made a gift to this year’s campaign, consider making an additional contribution in Ted’s honor to help us reach our $550,000 goal. Give today to change tomorrow. Your gift ensures that another generation of advocates will continue the work Ted started, defending the rights of those in need to build a stronger community for us all.

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