Our Legal Victory to End Harms of Muslim Ban: Read the news

Since 1972, we've been unwavering in the fight for security, justice, and community power.

Our History

50 years

For 50 years, we’ve been one of the most formidable legal and civil rights organizations serving Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. The ideals that led to the Asian Law Caucus’ formation in 1972 continue to inform our work today: racial justice, community-centered solutions, and advocacy and legal strategy rooted in the voices and experiences of our clients and their families, neighbors, and co-workers.

Black and white photo of protestors standing on the steps in front of San Francisco City Hall holding signs

How It Started

The Asian Law Caucus quietly set up practice in 1972 in a small storefront in Oakland, California, staffed by one attorney and a handful of volunteer law clerks and community activists.

One of our earliest cases was Chann v. Scott, a class action lawsuit against the San Francisco Police Department on behalf of Chinese youth who were routinely targeted in police sweeps through Chinatown. Our lawsuit successfully ended these racially discriminatory dragnets and spurred community activists and lawyers to form the Asian Law Caucus as a nonprofit legal organization.

Over the next five years, we carried our model of community lawyering to cases for civil rights, workers’ rights, and housing rights. In 1973, we challenged the California attorney general’s bulletin for law enforcement agencies that characterized people of Chinese descent through racist tropes. The next year, we filed the first class action employment discrimination lawsuit on behalf of Asian Americans (Salazar v. Blue Shield of California), and in 1975, we joined the landmark legal defense of International Hotel residents in San Francisco.

That was just the beginning. We’re in this for the long haul, and we’re fearless in the fight for justice.


1972: Chann v. Scott A small group of lawyers and activists formed the Asian Law Caucus in Oakland. One of our earliest cases defended Chinatown youth against the San Francisco Police Department’s racially discriminatory dragnets. The successful class action lawsuit solidified our role as the country’s first legal aid organization focused on serving low-income Asian Americans.

1975: International Hotel In this historic struggle, residents of the International Hotel in San Francisco had been battling developers for years. ALC joined the legal defense in 1975, but in 1977, the developer evicted the 60 elderly Chinese and Filipino residents and demolished the building the following year. The block on the border between Chinatown and the Financial District remained a blighted hole for years until the hotel was reconstructed in 2005. The International Hotel now provides 104 permanently affordable residential units and is the site for the Manilatown Center.

1977: The Chinese Times
We helped workers at San Francisco’s largest Chinese language daily newspaper form their union. The organizing drive was a breakthrough in Chinatown worker power, resulting in a contract that more than doubled people’s salaries and provided benefits that included major layoff protections.

1978: Ping Yuen Tenants Association v. San Francisco Housing Authority
Our attorneys joined other community and legal organizations to represent more than 200 public housing tenants in Chinatown’s Ping Yuen housing project, demanding better building security and basic repairs. Tenants’ eight-month rent strike raised the issue of unsafe and unsanitary conditions across San Francisco Housing Authority properties.

1982: International Molders & Allied Workers Union Local 164 v. Nelson
We teamed up with other organizations to sue the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service for civil rights violations during workplace factory raids. The successful action - supported by legislative advocacy and community outreach - resulted in a settlement that banned warrantless raids.

1983: Coram Nobis Cases
In early 1983, we pursued one of our most crucial civil rights challenges. With newly discovered evidence pointing to egregious government misconduct during World War II, our attorneys and pro bono lawyers petitioned the federal courts to overturn the wartime conviction of Fred Korematsu. Two legal teams in Seattle and Portland also petitioned courts on behalf of Gordon Hirabayashi and Min Yasui. The eventual success of Mr. Korematsu’s case and the reversal of his conviction paved the way for the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, calling for redress and reparations for 120,000 Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II.

1989: Anna Chan, et al. v. Ocean Garment Manufacturing Limited, et al.
Anna Chan and other garment workers led a campaign that secured economic rights for workers across their industry. This case represented the first judgment from a California court holding a garment manufacturer responsible for wage theft by its subcontractor.

1994: Gregorio T. v. Wilson
Our staff fought the unconstitutionality of Proposition 187 which would deny undocumented immigrants access to public education, heatlh, and social services. It was the first time that a state had passed legislation related to immigration, counter to federal policies. The federal court found the law to be unconstitutional.

1995: United States v. Alameda County, et al.
As a result of our monitoring of Alameda County’s election practices, the U.S. Department of Justice brought action against the county to comply with the Voting Rights Act’s language provisions. Alameda County ultimately entered into a voluntary agreement with DOJ to translate all election-related materials into Chinese.

1999: Historic Sweatshop Accountability Legislation
As a result of over a decade of relentless advocacy and organizing by Asian Law Caucus and a coalition of labor and community groups, California passed the nation’s strongest anti-sweatshop law.

2000: U.S. v. Wen Ho Lee
In 1999, the government accused Dr. Wen Ho Lee, a mechanical engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, of espionage. Dr. Lee was denied bail and incarcerated for 10 months in solitary confinement. Civil rights organizations, including the Asian Law Caucus, fought back against these injustices and the larger issue of racial profiling by government agencies.

2006: Fong Building at 53 Columbus Street
In 1998, we started representing elderly and low-income residents at 53 Columbus in San Francisco Chinatown to fight displacement from the neighborhood. In 2006, we negotiated a settlement with the landlord to convert the building into Chinatown’s first limited equity housing cooperative. Over the next few years, we worked with the tenants to secure financing and upgrade the aging building - and we moved in as the ground floor tenant, giving us a permanent home in a community we serve and ensuring revenue stability for the cooperative.

2008: Asian Law Caucus & Electronic Frontier Foundation v. Department of Homeland Security
We brought a suit under the Freedom of Information Act alleging that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security denied travelers access to public records on the questioning and searches they were undergoing at U.S. borders. Agents were subjecting residents returning home from overseas to intrusive questioning about their families, religious practices, and political beliefs, and interrogations often lasted 5-6 hours without any state justification.

2011: Challenging the “Secure Communities” Program
With a coalition of civil rights activists, we fought the so-called Secure Communities Program, a program conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local law enforcement. “S-Comm” deported domestic violence survivors and other victims, instilling fear across communities and ripping families apart.

2014: Standing up for Immigrant Justice
We won in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals the right for thousands of immigrants in detention to see a judge and explain why they should be released on bond. That same year, San Francisco restaurant workers and our attorneys won a landmark settlement of $4 million in back wages and workplace changes at Yank Sing.

2017: Landmark California Values Act
Through years of community-centered advocacy led by the ICE Out of CA coalition, we passed the California Values Act, which ensures no state or local resources are used to carry out mass deportations and safeguards public spaces such as schools, hospitals, and courthouses from funnelling immigrants to detention and deportation. We’ve also challenged the Trump administration’s attempts to remove key provisions of the law, and in June 2020 the U.S. Supreme Court decided 5-2 to refuse the federal administration’s appeal of the Ninth Circuit decision, leaving the California Values Act as binding state law.

2018: Chhoeun v. Marin and Trinh et al. v. Homan, et al.
In 2017, ICE began carrying out raids on Cambodian and Vietnamese communities across the country, detaining hundreds of people. Those detained had arrived in the U.S. as refugee children, many of whom were fleeing the horrors of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. In the U.S., they struggled with unaddressed trauma and poverty and made mistakes that led to criminal convictions. Yet, after they earned release, rebuilt their lives, and were peacefully contributing to their communities ICE detained these community members without warning or explanation.

We filed a nationwide class action lawsuit challenging these unlawful arrests and mass detention of hundreds of Cambodian and Vietnamese refugees. The government has conceded that these immigrant community members should be released, and the cases continue to seek more permanent relief.

2018: Pars Equality Center, et al. v. Pompeo, et al.
After the Supreme Court upheld the third Muslim Ban, we filed a lawsuit challenging the Ban’s so-called “waiver scheme.’ Our suit alleges that the waiver provision has, as a practical matter, amounted to nothing more than an empty promise. Families from the five majority-Muslim banned countries remain unnecessarily separated, students cannot pursue their research or study, and people can’t get the healthcare they need. Our suit seeks to require the government administers the waiver process in a manner consistent with the due process requirements of the U.S. Constitution.

2021: Repealing Muslim & African Bans
With the No Muslim Ban Ever coalition, we led a nationwide campaign to uplift the stories of community members and urge elected officials to take action. In early 2021, the Biden administration issued a presidential proclamation repealing the Muslim & African Bans.

2022: The Right to Non-Discriminatory Housing For years, Valstock Management harassed elderly tenants in Chinatown with intimidation tactics and created a climate of fear. The tenants advocated for their rights and in 2022, they won settlement in a discrimination case to remain in their long-time, rent-controlled homes without harassment.

Where We’re Going

We’ve grown from a handful of volunteers to over 50 staff members who directly serve more than 1,200 clients each year, provide information and resources to tens of thousands and ultimately impact millions through changes to statewide and national policy. We partner with more than 100 grassroots and nonprofit organizations and convene large, multiracial coalitions like ICE Out of CA, which brings together more than 50 immigrant rights, criminal justice reform, faith, and labor organizations.

We work daily to honor our legacy of community lawyering and deepen our commitment to multiracial solidarity and leading-edge policy advocacy. Above all, we sustain a relentless focus on our clients, who hail from over 18 ethnic and racial groups and whose communities have been among the hardest hit by anti-immigrant policies, economic inequality, and an unjust criminal legal system.

We can’t do this work without our supporters around the country.

Take a moment today to support our work and make sure we continue our fights for justice for the next 50 years.