DA Launches Legal Clinic in San Francisco

San Francisco district attorney's office along with other Asian Pacific American civil rights organizations launched the first ever bilingual on-site clinic May 15 aimed at APA crime victims. District Attorney Kamala Harris said she hopes this pilot program will encourage APA immigrants and seniors who have been reluctant to report crime or seek legal assistance to approach law enforcement. "This clinic is a result of our priority to make sure that we maintain and preserve outreach in immigrant and non-English speaking communities," Harris said. "We want to make sure we give information to the residents of Chinatown and let them know what kinds of services are available out there." Harris said in the past, the district attorney's office has not communicated well with Chinatown residents or provided adequate outreach.

The legal clinic provides information booths in five areas: consumer fraud, tenant complaints, domestic violence, elder abuse and immigration. Vietnamese and Cantonese translators are on hand to help attorneys from the Asian American Bar Association (AABA). Victor Hwang, AABA president, said that volunteer attorneys at the clinic screen cases and have the capability to file police reports and have the DA's office review the cases. Both Harris and Ted Wang, policy director for Chinese for Affirmative Action, stressed the need to inform the Chinatown community that the DA's office will not use its power to deport people.

The clinic was formed in the wake of recent police shootings which injured two Chinese. "With these two recent shootings, one in Chinatown and the other in the Tenderloin, there's tension and distrust of the San Francisco police among the Chinese [American] community," Hwang said. "It's critical that we continue holding these clinics. We need to build back the trust in law enforcement." (Source: May Chow, AsianWeek, May 21, 2004)

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