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History of Oficina Legal del Pueblo Unido, Inc and The Texas Civil Rights Project

"I was very much impressed with what I saw and heard. I can't imagine there's another organization like the Civil Rights Project anywhere.
At least, I've never come across one.."--Noam Chomsky

Oficina Legal del Pueblo Unido, Inc., was created in 1978 as a community, grassroots foundation to provide legal assistance and education, without cost, to poor and low-income people, particularly minority persons and individuals victimized by discrimination.

In September 1990, OLPU established the Texas Civil Rights Project as one of its programs.

TCRP began with an unpaid staff of two in the Austin Peace Building (an attorney and an office manager). Within a few months, TCRP was able to hire an attorney for its South Texas office. TCRP now has a staff of eight in Austin, and four in the Rio Grande Valley – and owns its offices in both places. TCRP also has recently employed an organizer in El Paso and a Houston area regional director

For 15 years, the Texas Civil Rights Project has been a tireless advocate for racial, social and economic equality in Texas, through its education and litigation programs.

Some of the Achievements We are Most Proud of

Handled more than 700 cases
Published 7 Human Rights reports on issues such as hate crimes and the death penalty
Compiled five “self-help” manuals
Published 300 opinion editorials in Texas newspapers
Given 200 speeches and talks on civil rights
Conducted community and lawyer trainings for more than 22,000 persons

The South Texas Project has worked steadfastly to extend equal rights to farm laborers and colonia residents in the Rio Grande Valley, and improve their living and working conditions.

We have sued over every kind of misconduct in every part of Texas -- city police, sheriff deputies, Department of Public Safety officers, and Border Patrol agents. Because of our work, jails in Hidalgo, El Paso, Henderson, Tom Green, Williamson, Travis, Bexar, Dallas, and Brown Counties do much more now in preventing inmate suicide, providing interpreters for deaf prisoners, protecting vulnerable inmates from sexual assault, administering HIV medications, and making them accessible for inmates with disabilities.

Jim Harrington pictured with Xu Beining

Human Rights Attorney Xu Beining (left) of the East China University of Politics and Law visits the Michael Tigar Human Rights Center (Summer 2006)

TCRP set the national model in ballot accessibility for blind voters and has led at least 17 regional compliance campaigns in Texas under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Thanks to the efforts of our staff, churches and courthouses in Texas are much more accessible to elderly and disabled people.

We have pioneered in an unique “circuit-rider” outreach program in west and south rural Texas for abused and undocumented spouses under the Violence against Women Act (VAWA).

And we continue to prod the Texas Supreme Court to improve the pro bono services of Texas' 70,000 attorneys for poor and low-income families in the state, 90% of whom have unmet legal needs each year..

Our Title IX educational and litigation programs on sexual harassment and equal sports opportunities have helped make rural middle schools and high schools more hospitable for young women, and respectful of them, and opened up the prospect of athletic scholarships to college for them.

Our "Equality under the Law" campaign has addressed "benign" discrimination against African Americans and Hispanic Americans in banks, restaurants, motels, and other places of public accommodation.

Our efforts to help South Asian, Muslim, and Arab citizens, permanent residents, and students who fell victim to post September 11 discrimination have included filing a suit against a major airline, and enlisting Texas attorneys to represent, on a pro bono basis, individuals who were questioned by the FBI.

We worked with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) to help create single-member school board districts in Del Valle ISD and assisted in redistricting the Texas Legislature and Texas Congressional so as to protect the voting and representational rights of minority citizens.

We are assisting the NAACP is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to withhold federal funds from the Austin Police Department until it changes its use of force practices in the city’s minority communities.

Jim Harrington pictured with delegation of attorneys from China

TCRP Director Jim Harrington hosts delegation of attorneys from China in visit arranged by US State Dept. and the University of Texas at Austin

We joined with the American Jewish Congress in one of the first court cases in the country to challenge the constitutionality of government funding of a religiously orientated job-training program that used the Bible as a text and proselytized among its trainees.

And we are a leading voice in raising questions about the fairness of Texas' death penalty scheme, and the possibilities of executing innocent people. So, too, are we an intrepid advocate of traditional civil liberties, such as free speech and assembly, due process, and equal protection under the United States and Texas Constitutions.

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1405 Montopolis Drive, Austin, Texas 78741-3438 | Tel: (512) 474-5073