We believe that immigrants seeking assistance with naturalization (citizenship) applications, asylum petitions, or family reunification are entitled to high quality, experienced legal assistance. No one should be denied the help of a lawyer due to their inability to pay or due to their immigration status. The Legal Clinic also stands ready to support DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) cases, and the rights of COFA (Compacts of Free Association) citizens in Hawai‘i.
Nearly one in five Hawai‘i residents is an immigrant, and over half of the state’s immigrants are naturalized U.S. citizens. Yet access to affordable or free immigration legal services is very limited. Immigrants who fear return to their home countries due to persecution may be entitled to asylum or other legal protections, while others who are already eligible for citizenship may not know how to apply due to lack of resources and information.
FREE OR LOW-COST SERVICES
- Immigration Legal Counsel
- US Citizenship Application and COFA Identification Assistance
- Know Your Rights Workshops
- Citizenship Fairs
- Advocacy & Community Education for Immigrant Rights
Bettina Mok, M.A., Executive Director comes to The Legal Clinic with over 20 years of non-profit management work experience, most recently as a development consultant for other non-profit organizations in Honolulu and the Bay Area. The daughter of two first-generation immigrant parents (Chinese and German), Bettina was born in Bangkok, Thailand and came to the US at the age of six. She has worked for youth-serving organizations, workforce development initiatives, environmental conservation groups, cross-cultural training initiatives, foundations, and international exchange programs. She is inspired by the power of collective action in the pursuit of justice for all.
Esther S. Yoo, Esq., Staff Attorney is a dedicated, long-time advocate for immigrants. Prior to her work at TLC, she was Director of the Academic Success Program at the University of Maine School of Law and an adjunct professor of legal methods and legal writing. Before joining the law school, she was a litigator in private practice, where she represented pro bono asylum clients who had been persecuted for various reasons, including their political opinion, race and ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation, and membership in a particular social group. She also assisted pro bono clients in preparing their applications for naturalization and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Early in her career, Esther served as a law clerk for the Honorable Dolly M. Gee of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Shortly before and during the clerkship, Judge Gee decided two landmark cases involving the rights of immigrant detainees: Franco-Gonzales v. Holder, which recognized a right to legal representation for mentally incompetent immigrant detainees, and Flores v. Johnson, which enforced a consent decree outlining the standards for the treatment of minors in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The experience of clerking for Judge Gee confirmed Esther’s interest in immigration law and commitment to immigrant rights. She is now excited to help meet the legal needs of Hawaii’s immigrant community. Esther has served in other public interest roles, including developing after-school programming and conducting educational outreach in underserved communities in Los Angeles for the University of California, fundraising and communications for the education advocacy and social work programs of the Massachusetts juvenile public defender’s office, and advocating for benefits on behalf of transition-age foster youth in Los Angeles. Esther received her A.B. from Harvard University. She attended UCLA School of Law, where she was an editor of the UCLA Law Review and graduated Order of the Coif.
Lia Nakao (Legal Assistant) and Brissa Flores Romero (Program Coordinator) joined TLC in early 2020. Welcome to the team!
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Corey Park, JD
|Amy Agbayani, PhD
Emeritus Vice Chancellor for
Univ. of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
|Agnes Malate, PhD
Director of Health Careers Opportunity Program, Univ. of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
|Lowell Chun-Hoon, Esq.
Shanty Asher, JD
U.S. House of Reps; & Co-Founder, Aloha Dream Team
Retired Credit Union CEO
|Dr. Ismail Elshikh
Muslim Association of Hawai‘i
Rev. Amy Wake
Retired Social Worker
Susan Chong Wong, JD
Susan A. Li, Esq.
Esther Arinaga, JD, Retired Immigration Attorney
Rev. Thomas Choi, Senior Pastor, First United Methodist Church of Honolulu
John Robert Egan, Esq. Immigration Attorney; Director of the Refugee & Immigration Law Clinic-Univ. of Hawai’i at Manoa William S. Richardson School of Law