Eight years ago, straight out of law school, José Alonso joined LAF and never looked back. Now a Senior Attorney in LAF’s Immigrants and Workers’ Rights Practice Group, José has made himself irreplaceable at LAF. José works with immigrants, migrants, and seasonal agricultural workers across the state in cases as diverse as wage theft, domestic violence, housing, human trafficking, discrimination, working conditions, immigration, and public benefits. He locates these workers, educates them about their legal rights, and empowers them through legal representation. This work requires him to be a highly skilled attorney with expertise across a wide range of poverty law issues. It also requires José to be willing to travel long hours across the state, build trust with clients, and understand the nuances of doing outreach. José talks about how important that basic trust is, and about how LAF is often the only thing standing between the workers and poverty, abuse, and discrimination: “Many times, we’re it. We have the trust in these communities, that if they have legal issues or immigration issues, we will help them. We’re it. We have to help them.”
Recently, that trust brought eight migrant workers to José to tell him their stories of backbreaking work in dangerous and illegal conditions, including working long hours in extreme heat, not being paid the minimum wage, not having access to bathrooms and potable drinking water in the field, and having to sleep on a hardwood floor. José helped the workers raise claims against their employer for violations of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, Illinois Minimum Wage Law, and the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act. With LAF’s help, these workers obtained a settlement of more than $20,000, with an additional $7,500 in attorney’s fees and costs to LAF. This is the sort of work that keeps Jose at LAF, he explains: “To be able to have a job that allows me to do this, it’s really a dream. I’ve never charged anybody ever for my legal services, and that makes me feel good. Plus, working together, finding justice for the immigrant worker population, to analyze a case, to find an immigration remedy, an employment remedy, to achieve justice in a holistic way… it’s exciting. It keeps me here.”
In honor of his incredible work, he was awarded one of the Chicago Bar Foundation’s Sun-Times Public Interest Fellowships for 2015. They are proud to help him financially meet his law school loan obligations while he works tirelessly “to serve those who yearn for justice, respect, dignified treatment, equality, opportunity, and access to resources.” Congratulations, José!
Read more about José’s accomplishments, and much more, in LAF’s October eNewsletter, out today!