I was present on July 11, when Governor Brown signed into law the Homeowners’ Bill of Rights.  This was particularly exciting for me as I had an opportunity, through LAFLA’s collaboration with the Community Reinvestment Coalition, to participate in discussions with advocates in Sacramento about how to fashion some of the language in the bill.  Many of the key provisions of the Homeowner’s Bill of Rights were offered as bills in the past but never succeeded, so it was great to see these provisions finally become law.

After spending the last few years working with homeowners unfairly facing foreclosure and having seen earlier drafts of the bill, I am fairly pleased with how the Homeowners’ Bill of Rights turned out.  There are some decent protections in there for homeowners, and I think these protections will have lasting benefits for California and its homeowners (and since California is so large, for other states as well) once they go into effect in January 2013.  Here are my picks for the best parts of the Homeowners’ Bill of Rights (HBR):

  • Consistency for all California Homeowners: For years, California homeowners have had to deal with mortgage servicers who gave homeowners the run-around with loan modification applications, foreclosures being conducted by servicers while a foreclosure alternative was being evaluated, supposed mortgage-holders not having documents to support their claim of mortgage, and worse.  The recent multistate AG settlement strictly limits many of these practices, but it only applies to five servicers and does not apply to mortgages held by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac – meaning that a majority of residential mortgages in California are not covered by the settlement.  The HBR curtails wrongful practices done by all servicers and mortgage holders in California, regardless of who services or holds the mortgage. (more…)

The United States Supreme Court issued its decision on June 28 in National Federation of Independent Business, et al. v. Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, et al., which was the case that sought to determine the validity of the national health care law known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Supreme Court upheld the ACA , saying that Congress had the authority to require individuals to purchase health insurance through its power to tax, but not through the Commerce Clause.   Under the ACA, only those who are required to purchase health insurance and refuse will have to pay a penalty that is collected by the Internal Revenue Service.   Other individuals are not “taxed”.  Subsidies would be available to assist low-income individuals purchase health insurance and other exemptions from the requirement to buy health insurance exist in the law. Although the Court upheld the part of the ACA that called for expanding Medicaid eligibility to some populations not now covered, it said that Congress could not constitutionally withhold all Medicaid funding to states that refused to implement the expansion provision.  This means that States could choose not to implement the Medicaid expansion provision of the law and not lose its current Medicaid funding.  Poor and low-income  individuals in States that choose not to implement the Medicaid Expansion provision may continue to find it difficult, if not impossible, to get the healthcare that they need.  Nonetheless, the decision of the Supreme Court in upholding the ACA means greater health coverage and better health for millions of Americans.


Yolanda Arias is the Managing Attorney of  LAFLA’s East Los Angeles Office and oversees LAFLA’s legal work in government benefits and immigration law.

She began her career at LAFLA as a staff attorney in 1988. Some of the work Arias has been involved in has included foster care litigation (State of California, Rosales v. Thompson), health care litigation (Harris, et al. v. County of Los Angeles) and extensive policy work on Welfare to Work issues and language access issues.

Arias received her Juris Doctorate from the University of California at Los Angeles and her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Southern California.

On Friday, the Obama Administration announced it would no longer deport young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children, have lived here for five or more years, have completed some schooling or military service, and have no criminal record. Read Michael Ortiz’s thoughts on the new immigration policy.

Yes.  This is really great news.  It will give some hope to countless young people who are now, and have been for a long time, here in the US.  They have grown up here, attended school and done all of the things they were supposed to do to be good citizens.  But there have been so many instances where I have attended public events and spoken to students and parents of many young children who were disillusioned by the thought that there was no future even though they did all of the right things.  The most disheartening thing I would hear is from the students who would ask “What’s the point of getting an education if I won’t be able to get a job later on.”

One glimmer of hope that has been out there for many years was that Congress would finally pass the DREAM Act legislation.  But that piece of legislation has been introduced and gone nowhere year after year.  Today’s policy announcement is not a  legislative change;  rather it is a limited step that is being taken that lies within the discretion of the Executive Branch.  The unfortunate down-side is that it creates a “deferred action” bubble of protection, but does not have a path out of that status.  That is, there isn’t a path to permanent residency and later to US citizenship. But even with this limitation, this is truly one remarkable giant step in the right direction.

Read Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s memo on the policy change.

Michael is Directing Attorney for our Immigration Unit, and has been an integral part of the LAFLA team since 1982, handling complex immigration cases. In 1984, LAFLA formally recognized the need to provide immigration services to its clients, which led to the formation of its Immigrants’ Rights Office (IRO). Michael  worked at the IRO where he represented immigrants in many types of immigration cases including asylum matters and major litigation affecting the rights of immigrants. Michael obtained his Bachelor’s Degree from Yale University and his J.D.  from the University of Southern California.

For the past 12 years, I have worked with immigrant women who have survived domestic violence, rape, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation.  Before having children, I put my heart and soul into my work – not only with their legal needs but I often found myself offering them rides, helping them flee their abusive homes, monitoring court-ordered visitation, the list goes on and on.  Yes, I know about boundaries, and I acknowledge I probably did a lot of things I should not have done.  Through all of it, though, I never ceased to be amazed at my clients’ resilience through their darkest hours, especially those who had to care for children on their own without any help from friends or family.  Some fled from their abusers while pregnant and had to go through child birth and everything after completely alone.  I once had a client call me from the hospital because the nurse told her that her son had to have his father’s last name, and she wanted to ask me if that was true.  A small detail – but how overwhelming it must have been to do everything alone.  I did not quite understand how amazing their resilience was until I actually had my own child. 

As many would agree, having a child was hands-down the most difficult thing I have ever done.  I felt like I had been hit by a truck and could not breathe from the fatigue I felt (and still feel).  I had to read Anna Quindlen’s essay, On Being Mom, regularly to get through it all.  I always felt like I was doing everything wrong and wondered when the chaos would end.  All the things I swore I would never do, I ended up doing – bribing my daughter with candy, making a mess in restaurants, letting the kids sleep in my bed.  I still co-sleep with both my children, who cannot fall or stay asleep without me.  This leaves me with little or no down time to rest, catch up on work from home, or spend time with my husband. 

After having my daughter Terin in July 2009, I wondered whether I would ever be able to go back to work with the same passion as before.  I wondered how I could care for her fully and take on the same type of cases as before.  When I went back to work, I constantly felt guilty for leaving her and guilty for not working as much as I had before.  The tug of both worlds always on my mind, I struggled to come to terms with what it meant for my day-to-day life.  This became even harder when I had my son Tegyu in August 2011.  Even though I pretty much worked through both my maternity leaves, my first full day back at work after having Tegyu, I came home with a migraine headache and vomited from all the stress and “tugging” I felt. 


The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles joined with other community members to submit comments in response to the draft environmental impact report on the proposed football stadium project in downtown Los Angeles. The following statement is from Zahirah Mann, Staff Attorney for Community Economic Development at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles: 

“The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles has submitted comments on behalf of the Play Fair at Farmers Field Coalition in response to the draft environmental impact report (DEIR) for the proposed football stadium project in downtown Los Angeles. The project’s developer, AEG, in return for being granted a special exemption from state environmental laws, has pledged to build the nation’s greenest football stadium that will be an engine of opportunity for working families in our city. Our action today is an important step to holding AEG to that promise.


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