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2010 May - June

Postracialism or Targeted Universalism?

By john a. powell

After the election of the first African-American U.S. president, many ascribe to the notion of "postracialism" as a kind of positive race blindness and assert that focusing on race-specific programs or talking about race is divisive. To the contrary, a false universal approach to public programs, such as those of the New Deal, Veterans Affairs, Social Security Act, and GI Bill illustrate, reveals many inequities. To keep this conversation alive, advocates need to learn about structural racialization and implicit bias. Copies of this article are

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Unemployment Appeals

Can Your Program Really Do More with Less?--the Legal Aid Perspective

By Susan Nofi-Bendici

The state of the economy has taxed the unemployment insurance benefits system while increasing the demand on advocates to represent clients in unemployment hearings. At the same time many legal aid programs are experiencing their own staff reductions due to loss of funding. Reaching out to the private bar, implementing pro se clinics, and involving law students can help programs maximize their ability to help clients obtain benefits.

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Language Access 101

The Rights of Limited-English-Proficient Individuals

By Michael Mulé

Discrimination on the basis of language is national-origin discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and people with limited English proficiency are entitled to have meaningful access to, participate in, and benefit from federally funded programs and services. The U.S. Department of Justice is devoting increased attention to the language-access rights of limited-English-proficient individuals. Legal aid advocates should be prepared to help clients assert these rights and should ensure that advocates’ own services are linguistically accessible.

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How Effective Is Machine Translation of Legal Information?

By Michael Mulé & Claudia Johnson

Machine-translation tools can help make programs and services accessible to people with limited English proficiency. But because machine translation merely substitutes words or phrases in the target language for those in the source language, the tools cannot be relied upon in lieu of human translators. As more and better machine-translation tools become available, they can yield a first draft for human translators to edit.

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Local Prosecution of Real-Estate Fraud as a Means to Achieving Social and Economic Justice for Low-Income Victims and Communities

A Case Study

By David G. Lim

“Save your home” foreclosure schemes have wreaked havoc on low-income communities. After considering relevant ethical rules, housing advocates can help combat foreclosure scams by becoming allies with their local prosecutors. The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office has assisted the low-income communities of Oakland, California, by not only prosecuting foreclosure scammers but also holding banks accountable for vacant homes that become the setting for criminal activities.Copies of this article are

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Accessible Assets

Bringing Together the Disability and Asset-Building Communities

By Karen K. Harris & Hannah Weinberger-Divack

People with disabilities have lower employment rates, lower savings rates, and higher costs of living than people without disabilities. Most asset-building programs do not consider the needs of people with disabilities. Asset limits are particularly onerous. Advocates need to ensure that people with disabilities are availing of programs tailored to them—the earned income tax credit (EITC), Assistive Technology Act alternative financing programs, and individual development accounts (IDA). Legislation to eliminate restrictions on the use of federally funded IDAs and create a new type of savings account will also ensure that asset building is doable by everyone.Copies of this article are

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The Revolution Will Be Mapped

By Bob Burtman

GIS (geographic information system) mapping technology is instrumental in underprivileged communities obtaining better services--from education and transportation to health care and municipal services--by illustrating precisely what discrimination and exclusion mean. More and more advocates, community groups, and academics use maps to identify social problems, devise solutions, and leverage change. The Cedar Grove Institute for Sustainable Communities has, among other projects, helped advocates use maps to show patterns of municipal discrimination against disadvantaged groups.

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The Movement Toward Veterans Courts

By Steve Berenson

Military veterans return home from overseas conflicts with “invisible wounds” of combat—posttraumatic stress disorder, major depression, and traumatic brain injury. These wounds can lead to a veteran’s ultimate involvement in the legal system. Jurisdictions have launched veterans court initiatives to tackle the unique problems that bring about such involvement and resolve the problems in a manner such that healing is fostered and recidivism prevented. Advocates should be aware of the value of these courts and of some considerations in creating such initiatives.

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Language Access in State Courts

By Laura K. Abel

An aspect of access to the courts is the provision of interpreters, at no cost, for persons with limited English proficiency. In some instances the right to an interpreter is rooted in the Constitution, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 imposes language-access requirements on state and county courts that receive federal funds. Advocates should learn whether their courts are in compliance and work to educate both legislators and the judiciary about language-access obligations.Copies of this article are

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