Recent SettlementsMacDonald Hoague & Bayless and Columbia Legal Services settle civil rights lawsuit against DSHS-- $2,450,000 for Latina day care workers and protection of all in-home day care providers in Washington.
In 2002 the Department of Fraud Investigation of DSHS raided the homes of 47 Latina day care workers in Mattawa, Washington. The investigators brought Immigration officers as "translators," demanded immigration and social security information, and in addition to taking day care records, took the worker's personal documents such as bills, and marriage and death certificates.
Mattawa is a small farming community of a few thousand residents, mostly Latino. The population increases dramatically in the spring and summer months when farms in this agricultural area hire mostly migrant farm workers who are willing to work long hours in the fields and warehouses for low wages, and who follow the crops with their families in tow. There are many day care providers in Mattawa, so parents do not have to take their children into the fields. The providers, all women, are licensed by the State and care for the children in their own homes, often beginning at 5 AM and ending at 10 PM while the agricultural workers are at work. Through a State program, the child care providers bill the State for the care of the children.
The town of Mattawa decided that the providers were somehow cheating the State. The town told investigators that there were too many day care providers in light of the number of children and that the women were cheating the State, billing for children who did not exist or double billing for children.
After initially investigating three providers, the officials in charge of the investigation learned the town was wrong. There was no double billing, nor were providers billing for children who did not exist. They also found that there were enough children to account for the number of providers. But the State, with the encouragement of the town of Mattawa, continued investigating and eventually raided all day care providers in the town and immediate outlying area. All the providers in the town were Latina.
The raids targeted Latinas and sought their original day care records to prove that they were doing something wrong. Although supposedly brought along as "translators," the immigration officers could not translate notices to the women demanding their records. DSHS said that the law giving it "access" to the women's records meant that the agency could confiscate them. And the Department claimed that the rules requiring the women to keep records meant that the records belonged to the State, not the women. After the raids, the State sent overpayment notices to the women claiming they had billed for time that they were not caring for children. Having deprived them of their original records, the State interfered with the women's ability to defend themselves.
Our office and Columbia Legal Services sued state officials and the Town of Mattawa to stop these illegal practices and to recover damages for the women whose homes were the raided. Judge Edward Shea of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington held that the women, not the State, owned their records and that the Department did not have the right to remove the women's records. The Court also held several state regulations and statutes unconstitutional. As a result, the State has changed certain regulations to comply with the Court's rulings.
After four years of litigation, the child care providers and the State negotiated a settlement protecting all in-home day care providers across the state. It protects their rights in their original records, prohibits fraud investigators from removing original records without a warrant, limits the hours during which investigators may come to their homes, and limits where the investigators may go in the homes. And, the settlement pays damages for the 30 child care providers who sued.
We are honored to represent these fine women. They showed great courage in bringing claims against the State and the very small town in which they live. Not only did the women clear their names, they protected their rights and enforced the rights of other providers across the State. It was a privilege to co-counsel with the excellent and caring lawyers and staff of the Wenatchee office of Columbia Legal Services who immediately recognized the injustice and asked us to participate in correcting these serious violations of the law.
Miguel Bocanegra recently assisted a client in applying for relief from removal (deportation) after he had been convicted of having committed certain crimes that made him removable from the country. The immigration Judge granted relief, and in so doing determined that the applicant’s equalities outweighed his criminal transgressions and that he should be given a final opportunity to remain in the country where he has lived for almost his entire adult life.
Bob Free recently obtained immigration relief—which will lead to lawful permanent resident status—for a woman and her children from Mexico who had been physically abused by their husband/father. This relief was granted under VAOA (Violence Against Women Act). The firm has handles many cases under this important law.
Andrew Chan will be speaking on Visitor’s Visas at the National AILA Conference held in Las Vegas.
Miguel Bocanegra has been appointed to provide advice regarding the collateral immigration consequences of a pending criminal matter before the Federal District Court of Western Washington by Judge James L. Robart, upon motion by the defendant’s criminal defense attorney.
Elizabeth Poh, Andrew Chan and Miguel Bocanegra were recently listed as Rising Stars in Law and Politics magazine.
Andrew Chan and Bob Free published an article in Immigration Briefings, a national immigration law magazine, on “The Lawyer’s Role in Consular Visa Refusals.” The article advises lawyers and the general public about steps that can be taken if an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa is denied by a consular officer abroad. If you are interested in reading their article, please visit Andrew or Bob's biography on this website for a link to the article.