Google’s philanthropy is funding the next generation of technology supporting immigrant rights and legal support in the United States
Last week, Pro Bono Net’s nonprofit innovation incubator for technology solutions supporting the immigrant rights movement, Justicia Lab, announced substantial new funding and support from Google.org, Google’s philanthropy. The $500,000 grant will focus on improving access to justice in a fast-changing immigration legal system by expanding and integrating Justicia Lab’s award-winning digital tools. This project will increase safety and relief for thousands of immigrants nationwide including recent arrivals, refugees and asylum seekers, existing residents including those with DACA status, and those who have been in the United States for many years and are seeking citizenship.
The immigration landscape in the United States is complex, fragmented, and constantly changing. Approximately 1.5 million undocumented immigrants in the United States could be eligible for immigration benefits but don’t know it. Over 600,000 DACA recipients are in need of document renewal support and information while thousands others are unaware of their DACA eligibility, and hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers to America risk being kept in the dark by opaque and inadequate resources to keep up with a rapidly changing legal landscape. As new immigration challenges continue to unfold and immigration reforms and policy continue to shapeshift, immigrant advocates are in need of flexible tools to screen clients, complete forms, triage cases, and provide remote legal assistance.
This funding will help to create the first comprehensive digital solution for immigrants and their non-profit advocates to apply for affirmative relief and connect with trusted non-profit legal service providers. Google.org’s support will enable Justicia Lab to nationally scale a free and accessible universal intake and case referral tool. This new integrated platform will allow immigrants to understand the legal system and their rights within it, complete immigration forms, and help connect them to in-person and virtual support.
Following the successful development and deployment of this platform in border states, Justicia Lab intends to scale this technology and its network of partners to other states and municipalities, legal service agencies, community nonprofits, social justice groups,and government institutions seeking to gain efficiency and save on attorney time.
“Google.org’s bold commitment to our work marks an important moment for public interest technology and the justice movement” says Justicia Lab Director Rodrigo Camarena. “Their support validates the importance of building national public digital infrastructure to give immigrants greater opportunities to understand and exercise their legal rights.”
For this project, Justicia Lab’s team of designers, strategists, and attorneys will work with leading immigrant advocacy organizations, community and local government partners across America. Justicia Lab will lead on co-design and user engagement, product strategy and tech development, UI and UX design for mobile and web, and coalition and community capacity building and training. Justicia Lab applies additional equity considerations to this work, addressing longstanding trust issues that many immigrants experience with technology by prioritizing data and privacy security and language access.
“As an immigrant from Venezuela, I know first hand the challenges that face families seeking safety, stability and new opportunities,” said Hector Mujica, Head of Economic Opportunity for Google.org in the Americas. “We’re proud to support Justicia Lab as they work to build the digital infrastructure necessary to support the immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers with the legal support they deserve.”
Having one universal digital tool will address geographic barriers between immigrant need and provider availability by allowing people to remotely access a national network of legal aid organizations and pro bono attorneys. Recent research by the Center for Migration studies points to legal capacity ‘deserts’ across America – what they identity as ‘areas with too few legal immigration professionals’ – with a national average of 1,413 undocumented persons in the United States for every charitable legal professional and an even more imbalanced ratio in states like Florida, Arizona, New Jersey, Georgia and Virginia.
About Pro Bono Net
Pro Bono Net is a national nonprofit leader in building technology and collaborations that increase access to justice. From connecting attorneys to those most in need to creating legal tools to help individuals advocate for themselves, Pro Bono Net makes the law work for the many and not the few.
About Justicia Lab
Justicia Lab is Pro Bono Net’s immigrant justice technology lab, and a nonprofit legal tech initiative whose mission is to transform immigrant justice through collaboration, creativity, and technology. We work hand in hand with immigrants and their advocates to identify common challenges and incubate scalable digital tools to advance help immigrants navigate our immigration system, find workplace justice, and more. Justicia Lab has developed over a dozen immigrant justice legal tools to scale and support the work of advocates and bridge the justice gap, helping over 500,000 people find critical immigration information and relief.
Google.org, Google’s philanthropy, brings the best of Google to help solve some of humanity’s biggest challenges combining funding, product donations and technical expertise to support underserved communities and provide opportunity for everyone. We engage nonprofits, social enterprises and civic entities who make a significant impact on the communities they serve, and whose work has the potential to produce scalable, meaningful change.