Youth Advocates: Two Recent Alums Launch Innovative Projects Helping Vulnerable Children in Oakland

Monday, January 25, 2016
Mindy Phillips
Mindy Phillips ’15 outside one of the Oakland schools where she provides immigration legal services.


Berkeley Law – By Andrew Cohen


Mindy Phillips ’15 and Whitney Rubenstein ’14 have plenty in common. Both found a second home in the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) soon after enrolling at Berkeley Law. Both strive to support at-risk youth. And both received prestigious, two-year Equal Justice Works fellowships to do just that at EBCLC.

Phillips’ initiative provides immigration legal services to Oakland public school students and their families. Rubenstein’s offers legal representation and social work support to Oakland public housing tenants who face possible eviction because of a juvenile delinquency matter. Each innovative project is improving the lives of vulnerable children.

Easing doubts, raising hopes

As a student at EBCLC, Phillips worked on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) issues affecting undocumented students before interning at the center’s Immigration Program. She later worked on immigration detention at Berkeley Law’s Policy Advocacy Clinic.

In September—just weeks after taking the California Bar Exam—Phillips launched immigration clinics at four school-based health centers connected to Oakland public schools. She rotates among them as part of a fruitful alliance between EBCLC, the Oakland Unified School District and La Clinica de la Raza, which runs the health centers.

“EBCLC has partnered with Oakland schools since 2010, mostly on special education and juvenile justice issues,” Phillips said. “But we saw a fast-growing demand for immigration help, and something had to be done.”

Phillips has already received more than 100 referrals from La Clinica medical providers, teachers, administrators and families who contacted EBCLC directly; provided over 70 consultations; and taken 30 cases for representation. She regularly gives community education presentations that help families understand their rights, college access rules for undocumented students, and how to avoid fraudulent legal services.


“Almost everyone I’ve consulted with had never spoken to an attorney or anyone at the center,” Phillips said. “We’re reaching a whole new community of people that need legal help.”

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