Carlos Holguín - The Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law
Carlos Holguín works as General Counsel at the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL).
His primary responsibility is to lawyer complex and class action litigation on behalf of immigrants and refugees. He also provides technical support, advocacy support, and training to lawyers and support staff of Qualified Legal Services Programs funded by the California State Bar, and assists in nonprofit management and administration of the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law Foundation.
Carlos says that the best part of working at a support center is the opportunity to further social and economic justice by supporting the work of legal services lawyers dedicated to defending the poor and disadvantaged. He says that his support center is best at complex and class action litigation in furtherance of the human, civil, and constitutional rights of immigrants, refugees, and the indigent.
Carlos received a J.D. from People's College of Law in 1979, and his undergraduate degree in political science from California State University, Northridge.
Except for one year as a front-line legal services lawyer at Westside Legal Services, Carlos has worked at CHRCL continuously since 1978.
Carlos says he was motivated to work at CHRCL after acting as a member of the Centro de Accíon Social Autónimo (CASA), a community-based organization founded by long-time activist and union organizer Bert Corona. He says CASA's work focused on advocacy on behalf of immigrant laborers, and he found that CHRCL had a similarly focused mission.
Carlos's work for Salvadoran refugees had a great impact on his work at CHRCL. He says, "I suppose early experiences shape us the most. During the civil unrest in Central America, I was fortunate to manage a major class action on behalf of Salvadoran refugees who were being systematically denied a meaningful opportunity to apply for political asylum. I had just been admitted to the bar, I worked very hard, often sleeping in my van in the parking lots of INS detention centers in El Centro and other remote areas, to gather declarations from refugees who had been threatened, deceived, and physically abused in Border Patrol custody. U.S. District Judge David Kenyon issued a nationwide injunction against these abuses and affirmatively required the Border Patrol to advise Salvadorans of their right to seek political asylum." See Orantes-Hernandez v. Smith, 541 F.Supp. 351 (C.D. Cal. 1982).
From this experience, he learned that a few legal aid lawyers could be a significant force for good. As he says, intellectually knowing this is one thing, but "internalizing such lessons is another matter."
Outside of his career, Carlos keeps centered by playing as a semi-professional guitarist. He also enjoys reading, traveling, mountain biking, hiking, cooking, and woodworking.