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Learn your rights: Free expungement and immigration legal clinics to be held Feb. 7 to 8



The Central Coast is what some social service experts call "a justice desert"—meaning, it has a shortage of pro bono lawyers and legal aid nonprofits to help low-income citizens navigate the justice system.

"There's already a shortage throughout California," explained Sharon Bashan, the pro bono justice program director at OneJustice, a nonprofit that consults with legal aid organizations statewide. "But then you have these justice deserts. We just realize there's a high need."

In an effort to fill the gap, OneJustice and the California Rural Legal Assistance are partnering to host two free legal clinics next month in San Luis Obispo County—one focused on expunging criminal records, the other on immigration assistance.

The expungement clinic will take place on Friday, Feb. 7, from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m., in the SLO Library Community Room. The immigration clinic is slated for Saturday, Feb. 8, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., in Paso Robles Community Church.

Clinic participants will benefit from one-on-one consultations with private attorneys, who will be flown in from San Francisco and Los Angeles free of charge courtesy of United Airlines.

"All these attorneys are donating their time," Bashan said. "We train them ahead of time."

GET HELP Two free, local legal clinics are offered on Feb. 7 and 8—one focused on expunging criminal records, the other on immigration assistance. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • File Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • GET HELP Two free, local legal clinics are offered on Feb. 7 and 8—one focused on expunging criminal records, the other on immigration assistance.

Bashan said that the expungement clinics help people convicted of "non-serious, non-violent felonies" fill out the necessary paperwork to clear their records. Expungement can be a complicated legal process and unfriendly to the layperson, Bashan said.

"A lot of what we're seeing is very old convictions, and folks who have rebuilt their lives and are trying to get a clean slate so they can provide for their families, remove the barriers to getting jobs," she said. "They desperately want a chance at upward mobility."

The immigration clinic will offer similar one-on-one assistance—on anything from naturalization applications, to DACA renewals, to immigration screenings, to general advice.

"What we're trying to do is provide legitimate and high-quality legal services within the confines of a clinic," Bashan said.

Bashan noted that immigrants are often subject to scams where people pretending to be qualified immigration attorneys steal their money—it's called notario fraud.

"It's problematic," she said. "You have these people who have escaped really harrowing situations in their home country, and these bad actors promise them the world. They take their money and put them in situations where they could potentially get deported."

SLO County community members interested in participating in the clinics should contact OneJustice beforehand to reserve a spot—call (323) 739-8093 or email Bashan at [email protected].

Fast facts

After 14 years in business, the Bambu Batu shop in downtown SLO is for sale. Founder and owner Fred Hornaday said in a press release that he's saying goodbye to the shop due to the challenges of running it while living overseas in Spain. Bambu Batu, the first store in California to sell all-bamboo products, is listed for $120,000. A sale includes its inventory, equipment, and website.

Monterey Bay Community Power is now officially the default electricity provider in the cities of SLO and Morro Bay. Officials held a "Flip the Switch" ceremony on Jan. 9 at SLO City Hall to commemorate the transition. Monterey Bay Community Power is a public entity that procures carbon-free power for customers at a discount from PG&E. Δ

Assistant Editor Peter Johnson wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to [email protected].

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