A humanitarian crisis
in a secret detention center
In 2014, children and women fled from the violence in Central America as the rule of law in those countries collapsed. Murders committed by third-generation gangs, such as the MS-13 and M-18, soared, and violence against women—scholars have labeled it a vast femicide—continued in epidemic proportions. The choice for the children and women was to die or flee. They chose to live and came to the United States to seek asylum. They were locked up in a secret detention center designed for rapid deportations without due process.
A small team of lawyers in Portland, Oregon convened a group of activists, software coders and graphic designers and charged them with answering this challenge: how can we leverage technology and activist-organizing theories to stop the illegal removals and support constitutional principles of due process? What can we do here to help the lawyers there? Can we create new technology that will harness and focus the legal power of hundreds of lawyers to solve this crisis?
The Innovation Law Lab was founded to bring new technology to the legal fight for justice
The problem was that - before LawLab - technology systems were not designed for lawyers who were on the ground working with complex immigration cases in complicated environments. Lawyers need systems designed for the real advocacy that takes place in the field and in their offices everyday. They need a system that works the way they work and pivots instantly to changing legal challenges.
The existing technology lacked the ability to customize, which non-profits and solos need. There was no attention given to work flows and the use of data aggregation to manage a practice or improve client outcomes. Rather, everything on the market was designed to turn creative lawyers into typewriters and forms processors. It was all about forms, forms, forms. We envisioned something different.
We wanted something that was designed to enable lawyers to win cases.
The Next Generation of Lawyering, Now.
We built Immigrant U - a curated collection of resources designed for both the lawyers and the immigrant community to learn the substantive law on immigration, asylum and detention. It goes beyond traditional Know Your Rights programming to teach skills on how to enforce rights.