Casa Libre's Founding
Casa Libre, was established by the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL) in 1996. Our mission is to provide temporary housing as well as legal and social services to unaccompanied immigrant minors detained by the federal government.
In 1997, CHRCL was lead counsel for the historic nationwide settlement class action Flores case requiring the prompt release of detained immigrant children to close family members living in the United States.
However, a small number of detained minors did not have family members to whom they could be released. CHRCL therefore established a program to provide these minors with temporary shelter and supportive services while stable and safe housing was located for them.
In 2000 CHRCL Executive Director Peter Schey was recruited by leaders in Congress to draft the LIFE Act extending the right to apply for lawful resident status to over 200,000 immigrants denied amnesty in 1987 because they had briefly traveled abroad during the amnesty law's required four-year residency requirement. Those permitted to apply were thousands of class members residing throughout the country who were registered in class action cases initiated by CHRCL on behalf of all immigrants denied amnesty because of their brief trips abroad.
CHRCL won a federal court order requiring that DHS's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) house accompanied minors detained with their parents in safe and sanitary conditions, provide class members with a list of legal services and Notice of Right of Judicial Review, make and record continuous efforts at the release of minors or place them in non-secure, licensed facilities, and limit the length of detention. Flores v. Sessions, 394 F. Supp. 3d 1041 (C.D. Cal 2017)
CHRCL served as. lead counsel with pro bono counsel Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, achieving a major settlement with the DHS's Customs and Border Patrol creating an independent medical monitor and mandating new and specific custodial conditions and procedures for hundreds of immigrant children in Border Patrol custody including family unity, age-appropriate meals, bedding, and clothing, and a multilayered medical system for children and families in custody.
CHRCL served as lead counsel in a nation wide class action case resulting in an injunction requiring that detained immigrant unaccompanied minors be provided a due process hearing if not released within 30 days.
History of Freedom House
The Freedom House is a historic mansion purchased by the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, Inc. in 1996.
Registered as a county, state, and federal historic site, this 10,000-square-foot Gothic mansion was built in 1901.
The home was designed by renowned architect, John Parkinson, designer of the Los Angeles Coliseum, Los Angeles City Hall, and Union Station. With vaulted ceilings and curved walls throughout, the house is an architectural masterpiece. Its Gothic construction is characterized by lightness and soaring spaces.
Freedom House is located in the Pico Union district of Los Angeles, close to a wide range of non-profit organizations providing community-based social services.
After being purchased, the Freedom House was renovated with updated plumbing, electrical systems, ADA compliance, fire-alarm system, etc.
The house includes two large living rooms, a large dining room, kitchen, pantry, breakfast room, a computer room, a music room, a staff office, seven bedrooms, and four bathrooms. The living rooms, dining room, and several of the bedrooms have rounded walls, ceilings, and windows. The dining room and entry way are wood-paneled. The entry room and dining room include antique chandeliers.
The bedrooms are spacious and none is shared by more than two residents. Residents are permitted to decorate their rooms as they would if living in their own homes. For added privacy, each resident is provided a key to a lock to their individual bedrooms (staff has a master key allowing them to enter all bedrooms.)
The property is fenced and gated to ensure the security of the premises and the residents. The house is surrounded by lush gardens and the exterior grounds of the house are landscaped by volunteers and residents. The residents engage in weekly gardening projects growing bulbs and plants and generally maintaining the gardens surrounding the house. The program plans to initiate a gardening project for residents to learn how to plant and grow their own fruits, vegetables, and other plants.
Board of Directors
In light of current federal policies aimed at blocking immigrant minor’s release from custody, which has skyrocketed the population of immigrant minors, mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, held in federal custody, Casa Libre will focus substantial time and resources on securing the release of as many minors in federal custody as possible. Consistent with its capacity, Casa Libre will make ongoing efforts to build upon and strengthen the relationship it has established with the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to better facilitate the release of minors in 2020.
In light of current federal policies aimed at blocking immigrant minor’s
release from custody, hundreds of detained Central American minors,
now face turning 18 (“aging out”) while in ORR custody which results in
the minor being transferred to an adult Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE) detention center, often losing their right to apply for
Special Immigrant Juvenile status (SIJ) or any other relief from
deportation. Consistent with its capacity, Casa Libre will focus on securing
the release of as many minors in federal custody as possible who are
close to aging out and being transferred to ICE custody and deported.
Peter Schey, Esq.
President of the Board, a long-standing advocate and lawyer representing thousands of detained unaccompanied minors in Federal custody.
Father Richard Estrada
Founder and President of Jovenes Inc. a housing program focusing on immigrant youth eighteen-years of age and older.
Harry Salzberg, Esq.
Immigrant Rights Attorney specializing in winning lawful status for immigrant minors and youth.
Paule Cruz Takash
Nationally recognized advocate for and expert on groundbreaking city and county programs to issue identification cards to immigrants and homeless communities.
Former immigrant and entrepreneur dedicated to addressing the unique challenges of immigrant minors.
Jocelyn Duarte, M.A.
Citizenship Services and Civic Engagement Programs Manager, SALEF. Teacher at East Los Angeles Community College in the Chicana/o Studies Department.
Joseph Chicas, MSW
Adjunct Professor at USC, teaching policy advocacy and social change. 10 years of leadership experience within the public and private sector rooted in a commitment toward solving society’s most vexing issues including Veterans affairs and homelessness.
Associate Director at CHIRLA. 20 years of experience in both for-profit and non-profit management. His experience in the private sector has shaped his unique expertise for the non-profit sector.
Gabriel F. Merino
Formerly detained minor who was separated from his mother when apprehended by the US Border Patrol. Current resident at Casa Libre, attending school, and planning to eventually attend college.
Rev. Jennifer Gutierrez
Rev. Gutierrez is an ordained United Methodist minister and has served as Pastor in several Los Angeles churches. She was Director of Urban Ministry for the Cal-Pac conference of the UMC, and most recently served as Executive Director of the Museum of Social Justice in Los Angeles. Rev. Jennifer also has a Master of Divinity from Claremont School of Theology and is currently working on her Doctorate of Ministry, also from Claremont.
Sanchez is an Internationally recognized peacemaker and co-founder of Homies Unidos in Los Angeles where he has developed and implemented innovative violence prevention and intervention programs since 1998 and has also led the organization as Executive Director since 2006.
The CHRCL Ecosystem
Casa Libre is a project of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL)
CHRCL runs a number of different projects, Project Reunify is set up to enhance conditions of detained immigrant children and secure their freedom. Children who do not have families to go to once released from detainment center may find a home at Casa Libre. Our Immigrant Whistleblower Project fights for the rights for undocumented immigrant youth to safely report workplace violations. SIJ Work Permits then seeks to grant undocumented youth with work permits. Tents for Homeless, while not a long term solution, provides necessary temporary shelter. Finally, the Unity Blueprint for Immigration Reform is the work of multiple organizations creating a cohesive long term solution for immigration once enough immigration advocates obtain active positions in congress.