We envision a world where the fundamental right to move is respected and appreciated by all. Our view is that all human beings are entitled to respect, documents, and a process through which to move, settle and resettle in the world.
The mission of Pangea Legal Services is to stand with immigrant communities and to provide services through direct legal representation, especially in the area of deportation defense. In addition to direct legal services, we are committed to advocating on behalf of our community through policy advocacy, education, and legal empowerment efforts.
Organizationally, we aim to create a non-profit that is scalable through a sliding scale fee structure and can grow in immigrant communities around the United States.
Pangea was the name of the earth's original continent when it was one connected landmass. For us, "Pangea" symbolizes the unity and oneness of our global community.
Pangea was created to help fill the great need for the representation of immigrants in both, detained and non-detained, immigration courts. With over 32,000* immigrants in deportation proceedings in the San Francisco Immigration Court, there is a great need for court and immigration defense services. Immigrants in removal proceedings need a lawyer because of the complexity of immigration law and the negative consequences of deportation. Also, many immigrants in the court process are eligible for relief or protection under existing laws, and they may have a pathway to citizenship.
Unfortunately, only a small percentage of immigrants have immediate access to legal counsel. Private immigration attorneys can be prohibitively expensive. And most nonprofits, even in San Francisco, do not represent clients in complex removal proceedings. The key to this gap is providing access to counsel.
Pangea is one example of an organization that was created to help bridge the access gap. While it hasn’t come without its challenges, Pangea created a low-fee model supported by grants that has doubled its size, budget and representation capacity every year in the last three years (2013-2016). Low bono, or affordable fee models similar to Pangea are growing around the country in various areas of law, creating a financially viable avenue to fill the justice gap.
Pangea launched in January 2013. The structure and foundation of our programs are based on other projects we have seen first hand in Sierra Leone, Turkey, Iran, Haiti, Argentina, Guatemala, and the United States. Bringing experiences and projects that have been successful around the world and locally, Pangea fills a unique need and aims to become a model that is sustainable and duplicable.
Pangea is a non-hierarchical or horizontal, consensus-based collective of advocates who are committed to a common mission. In this regard, we are guided by the models of worker cooperatives in Argentina, collectives in the United States and other horizontal models in the world.
Pangea is lucky to have a team of brilliant mentors and partners with diverse backgrounds and expertise. The following have formally joined our Board of Advisors:
Angela Chan, Bill Ong Hing, Christine Stouffer, Jon Rodney, Mark Silverman, Raha Jorjani, Ryan Stahl, Vivek Maru, and Zahra Billoo.
Read more about them below.
Angela F. Chan is a legal director and senior staff attorney managing the Criminal Justice Reform Program at Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus (AAAJ-ALC) in San Francisco, which is the nation’s oldest legal and civil rights organization serving the low-income Asian and Pacific Americans. Angela represents immigrant families who have youth caught in the juvenile justice system, and youth who are harassed or discriminated against in the K-12 education system. She also works on policy reforms to disentangle local police from immigration enforcement. She co-led the campaign to pass the TRUST Act (AB 4), a state bill which was signed into law and went into effect in January 2014, to set a statewide minimum limit on detentions in response to ICE hold requests. Angela joined AAAJ-ALC in 2006 with a Soros Justice Fellowship. She was named a Local Hero by the San Francisco Bay Guardian, given a Monarch Award by the Pacific Asian American Women Bay Area Coalition, and given a 40 Under 40 Leadership Award from the New Leaders Council for her work assisting immigrant families.
Angela also served on the San Francisco Police Commission, which is a chartered city civilian commission that adjudicates officer disciplinary cases and sets policies for the police department. Angela was an instructor for the Raza Department at San Francisco State University, teaching courses on race, crime, and justice. In addition, she was a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Napoleon A. Jones in the Southern District of California. Angela earned a J.D., from Harvard Law School and a B.A from Occidental College.
Bill currently serves as a Law Professor and Dean’s Circle Scholar at the University of San Francisco School of Law. He has pursued social justice through a combination of community work, litigation, and scholarship. He is the author of numerous academic and practice-oriented publications on immigration policy and race relations, including Ethical Borders—NAFTA, Globalization, and Mexican Migration (Temple University Press, 2010), Deporting Our Souls-Morality, Values, and Immigration Policy (Cambridge University Press, 2006), Defining America Through Immigration Policy (Temple University Press, 2004), and Making and Remaking Asian America Through Immigration Policy (Stanford University Press, 1993). His bookTo Be An American: Cultural Pluralism and the Rhetoric of Assimilation (NYU Press, 1997) received the award for Outstanding Academic Book by the librarians' journal Choice. At UC Davis, Bill directed the law school clinical program
Bill was co-counsel in the precedent-setting U.S. Supreme Court asylum case, INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca (1987). He is the founder of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco and continues to volunteer as general counsel for this organization. He serves on the board of Southeast Asian Refugee Action Center in Washington, D.C. A recipient of many Awards and Accolades, Bill has received the Asian American Achievement Award by the Organization of Chinese Americans (2013) and the Lifetime Achievement Award by Centro Legal de la Raza (2011), among others.
Christine strongly believes in clients having all the information they need to make a well-informed decision. She strives to help clients know and understand their rights in terms of the ever changing and complex immigration laws.
Christine decided to be a lawyer because she had the sense that she could "translate" law so that her clients would feel they have access to their rights in order to make informed decisions. Years ago she needed the help of an attorney and was relieved to find a person with whom she could relate on a human level. This attorney, who was a great role model, painted a clear picture of her rights in terms easily understandable that felt like a path out of a difficult situation.
Christine cites a variety of experiences in several different careers over the years that led her finally to immigration law. She has traveled extensively and spent time living abroad in Morocco and France. To her legal practice, she brings her past experiences interacting with many different types of people and her ability to manage pressure-filled situations with grace. Christine's mother is an immigrant in the United States and she has been an immigrant overseas. For these reasons, it means a lot to her to give back to the immigrant community. She loves having the chance to meet people from all over the world and finds it an honor to work with clients and get to know their histories.
Christine is a licensed member of the California State Bar and is licensed to practice in the Federal District Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. She is the recipient of the Award for Achievement in Public Interest Law From Golden Gate University (2005) and the Rising Star Award from the San Francisco Minority Bar Association.
Jon is the California Immigrant Policy Center’s Communications Manager, based in Oakland, California. He uses his passion for language to lift up the voices of immigrant communities in the media. During his tenure, he has developed communications strategies which have secured hundreds of pro-immigrant news hits. He has also provided training and support to many grassroots groups. Jon previously managed communications and development at the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy. Jon is a graduate of UC Berkeley in Spanish Language and Literature, and speaks both Spanish and modern standard Arabic.
Mark is the Director of Immigration Policy at the ILRC, where he has worked as an attorney since 1983. Mark has done over 400 presentations and trainings for immigrant communities throughout California. He has also made numerous presentations on various aspects of the law to attorneys and other legal workers.
Mark is the author and co-author of more than ten ILRC publications on different aspects of immigration law, including Asylum and Related Immigration Protections (formerly Winning Asylum Cases); Winning NACARA Suspension Cases; and publications on family visa, Temporary Protected Status, pro bono asylum programs, and the hardship requirement for waivers and cancellation.
Mark's hobbies include increasing his repertoire of (what some people consider) jokes through disciplined study of The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and other contributions to the highest traditions of American culture. He is a fluent Spanish speaker.
Raha is the Immigration Defense Attorney for the Office of the Alameda County Public Defender and is directing California’s first public defender immigration representation project. Before joining the Public Defender’s Office full-time, she was a Clinical Professor at the UC Davis School of Law where she taught in the Immigration Law Clinic for 7 years. In the fall of 2014, she taught the first course offered at the UC Berkeley School of Law dedicated to “Crimmigration” or the study of the intersection between Immigration and Criminal Law. Since 2005, Raha has provided pro bono representation and legal assistance to hundreds of immigrants – most of them detained - before the Immigration Courts, the Board of Immigration Appeals, U.S. Court of Appeals, and California state courts. Raha recently litigated the Israel O. case before the California Court of Appeal for the First District, which resulted in the first published opinion in California to uphold the availability of one-parent claims to Special Immigrant Juvenile Status for children in juvenile delinquency proceedings. Raha regularly conducts local and national trainings for immigration attorneys, criminal defense attorneys, and state court judges, on the immigration consequences of criminal convictions.
Ryan is an Associate at Scherer Smith & Kenny LLP, where he is active in all aspects of civil litigation, with a focus on employment litigation and counseling. Ryan’s practice includes work in various forums, including California state court, federal district court, federal bankruptcy court, and administrative bodies such as the California Labor Commissioner’s Office. He is also a member of the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Legal Ethics Committee. Prior to joining Scherer Smith & Kenny LLP, Ryan was a Law Clerk for the Honorable Richard M. Clark and the Honorable Gerald M. Etchingham in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.
A resident of the Bay Area since 2009, Ryan grew up in Indiana and attended Purdue University where he studied mechanical engineering. He also attended Indiana University, where he studied English and received a bachelor’s degree with distinction in 2001. Following his graduation from Indiana University, Ryan served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine. He received his law degree from the University of California, Davis, where he was elected as Editor in Chief of the UC Davis Law Review and served as treasurer of the King Hall Legal Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
In addition to repairing his home and cycling, Ryan spends an inordinate amount of his free time reading about finance, markets, and value investing.
Vivek founded the international non-profit organization, Namati, in 2011 to build the movement for legal empowerment around the world.
He cut his teeth on law and empowerment in Sierra Leone. From 2003 to 2007, Vivek co-founded and co-directed the Sierra Leonean organization Timap for Justice, which has been recognized by the International Crisis Group, Transparency International, and President Jimmy Carter as a pioneering model for delivering justice services in the context of a weak state and a plural legal system. Namati now works with Timap and other organizations in Sierra Leone to scale up paralegal services there. While in Sierra Leone Vivek also supervised the human rights clinic at Fourah Bay College.
From 2007 to 2011, he served as senior counsel in the Justice Reform Group of the World Bank. His work focused on rule of law reform and governance, primarily in West Africa and South Asia. Before moving to Sierra Leone Vivek worked at Human Rights Watch and clerked for Hon. Marsha Berzon on the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. In 1997-1998 he lived in a hut of dung and sticks in a village in Kutch, his native place, working on watershed management and girls’ education with two grassroots development organizations- Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangethan and Sahjeevan. Vivek graduated from Harvard College, magna cum laude, and Yale Law School. His publications include Between Law and Society: Paralegals and the Provision of Justice Services in Sierra Leone and Worldwide in the Yale Journal of International Law and Allies Unknown: Legal Empowerment and Social Accountability in the Harvard Journal of Health and Human Rights.
Vivek serves on the international advisory council of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, the advisory board of the evaluation firm ID Insight, and the governing board of the public entrepreneurship organization Res Publica. He was an affiliate expert with the UN Commission on Legal Empowerment , and is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2008, Vivek received the Pioneer Award from the North American South Asian Bar Association.
Zahra serves as the Executive Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations San Francisco Bay Area (CAIR-SFBA) chapter, striving to promote justice and understanding at local and national levels.In 2009, Zahra joined CAIR-SFBA and immediately embraced her roles as community organizer and civil rights advocate. She frequently provides trainings at local mosques and universities as part of CAIR’s efforts to empower the community, while building bridges with allies on key civil rights issues. Zahra also represents victims of discrimination and advocates for positive policy changes that uphold civil rights for all.
In March 2011, at her direction, CAIR-SFBA filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice challenging their warrantless use of GPS tracking devices to target American Muslims. Her work with CAIR-SFBA has been highlighted in local and national media outlets including KTVU, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, the Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. Most notably, she made waves when she appeared on FOX News’ O'Reilly Factor in Fall 2010 to discuss invasive TSA practices.
A 2010 recipient of the San Francisco Minority Bar Coalition's Unity Award and a 2011 recipient of the South Asian Bar Association of Northern California's Public Interest Attorney of the Year Award, Zahra has been a devoted labor rights advocate for several years. While in college, she worked with the California Faculty Association on issues including faculty salaries and the defunding of public higher education. While in law school, Zahra was awarded the Peggy Browning Fund Fellowship to work with the National Employment Law Project.
Zahra graduated Cum Laude from California State University, Long Beach with degrees in Human Resources Management and Political Science. She earned her J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of Law, and was admitted to the California Bar in 2009.