SAN DIEGO — The People's Alliance for Justice announced Wednesday the establishment of a task force made up of attorneys in San Diego and Los Angeles counties who will provide free legal representation to Asian Americans who have experienced discrimination due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Legal Aid Task Force will offer pro bono legal representation to Asian Americans in civil rights discrimination cases, with five attorneys offering their services so far in the greater San Diego area, according to the Rev. Shane Harris, president of the People's Alliance for Justice.
"Racism against any one of us is racism against all of us. Discrimination against any one of us is discrimination against all of us," Harris said at a news conference announcing the task force, calling its formation part "of a proactive agenda ensuring that the civil rights of Asian American communities are protected under the law."
Harris cited President Donald Trump's repeated referances to COVID-19 as the "Chinese virus" and noted that in the past, outbreaks of the Ebola virus resulted in hate crimes and discrimination against people of African origin, something he warned could happen to Asians.
Jason Paguio, president of the Asian Business Association of San Diego, said the Asian community has been on the receiving end of discrimination related to COVID-19 for several months prior to the statewide stay-at-home order.
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Paguio said the FBI recently warned of a potential surge in COVID-19 related hate crimes against Asians, something he worried could accelerate once stay-at-home orders are lifted.
One of the task force's attorneys, Marlea Dell'anno, said that though the courts are limited in what services they can offer in the wake of COVID-19 related closures and stricter public health guidelines, attorneys are available to provide assistance wherever needed.
"We're just here to remind everyone in our community that they are not alone," Dell'anno said. "There are people prepared to fight for their civil rights. We won't tolerate discrimination in our city. We won't tolerate discrimination against any members of our community."
Anyone who wishes to contact the Legal Aid Task Force for a potential civil rights discrimination case should call 619-354-8051.