History

Click here to see a timeline and photographs of AALDEF's achievements, milestones and precedent-setting cases over the past 35 years.

In 1974, a small group of lawyers, activists, and students in Lower Manhattan came together to create the Asian Americans Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF). Inspired by the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, they believed that the law should be used as a tool for social justice, and that lawyers should serve the needs of the people.

The Asian American population has grown ten-fold since AALDEF opened its doors thirty-five years ago, from just over 1.5 million to 15 million Asian Americans nationwide. From Chinese take-out delivery workers in New York and Nepalese domestic workers in New Jersey, to Vietnamese American youth in Louisiana and Bangladeshi voters in Michigan, AALDEF brings its commitment and expertise to address the legal needs of diverse Asian American groups.

We have litigated precedent-setting cases and won millions of dollars in back wages and overtime pay for Asian immigrant workers in the restaurant, garment, hotel, construction and domestic service industries. By working in multiracial coalitions, we have brought Asian American perspectives to policy debates and have organized campaigns to stop hate violence, police misconduct and human trafficking. After the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, AALDEF defended the civil liberties of South Asians, Arabs and Muslims who were the targets of racial and ethnic profiling. From educational equity issues to voting rights and civic participation, AALDEF has worked with grassroots groups to ensure that Asian Americans have a greater voice in the political process and the governmental decisions affecting their daily lives. We have trained hundreds of young lawyers and students through our internship programs, encouraging them to use their legal skills to serve the community.

AALDEF's staff of lawyers, policy advocates and community organizers are assisted by pro bono attorneys from major law firms, legal services offices, law school clinics and other volunteers. Together, we have won major legal victories, fighting uphill battles to secure human rights for all.