Peggy Huang was born in Taiwan as the youngest of three children. Her parents applied to come to America before she was born but their application was denied. They applied again, and they eventually came to America when Peggy was seven years old. In total they waited over 11 years to come to America.
Their family first settled in San Jose, California. Peggy and her brothers were the first non-English speaking immigrants to attend the local public schools. The local public schools had no ESL classes. Her elementary school told her parents that she could take the bus and travel to East San Jose to attend a school with ESL. Because of the gang activity in East San Jose, her parents chose to keep her at their neighborhood elementary school and Peggy learned English through immersion.
While she was in high school, her family moved to Irvine for a better opportunity. Peggy graduated from University High School in Irvine. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a Bachelors Degree and earned a Juris Doctorate at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. She was awarded AmJur in Professional Responsibility (given to the student with the highest grade in the class). To meet her goals, she worked and put herself through college and law school. Several times, she worked two jobs while attending school full time. Somehow she managed to finish college in four years. However, she still has a student loan and recognizes the burden being placed on students who take out a loan for school.
While in college, Peggy met a woman at a domestic violence shelter and learned that she and her children endured years of violence because their immigration status was tied to her husband’s work visa. If she left her husband, she and her children would be undocumented immigrants. Meeting this woman changed Peggy’s life. She is the reason that Peggy decided to pursue a legal career specializing in domestic violence and child abuse in the Asian American community.
Peggy interned with the Senate Judiciary Committee and worked on bills in the areas of family law, domestic violence, and child abuse. Recognizing that she had to improve her Mandarin and Taiwanese to better serve the Asian American community, Peggy moved to Taiwan to attend a Chinese language school after graduating from UC Berkeley. While in Taiwan, Peggy volunteered at a shelter for girls who were rescued from prostitution. When she walked to the shelter, she took different routes and looked over her shoulder to see if she was being followed. It was widely known that pimps and gangs were looking for their “girls” and the people who “stole” them. At the shelter, Peggy worked with a girl who was sold into prostitution at the age of five and rescued at the age of 12. This girl did not know how to read or write when she was rescued from the brothels. When Peggy became an English tutor for the second in command at Taiwan’s Department of Justice (who later became the Minister), Peggy was able to share with this individual the problems of human trafficking. Eventually the Minister helped craft and pass several pieces of legislation on human trafficking.
While in Taiwan, a friend introduced Peggy to a family that had recently returned from America. They left because they were entangled with Child Protective Services. They did not understand the juvenile dependency system; on the other hand, Child Protective Services did not understand the Taiwanese language and culture, and did not provide services that addressed the family dynamics, especially the stressors faced by immigrants. Peggy quickly recognized that misunderstanding between the parents and social workers led to the children being removed from the home due to the parents’ failure to comply with family preservation services.
After returning to the United States, Peggy attended law school. During her second year in law school she interned at the schools’ Community Legal Services and worked on family law and small claims cases. She also interned at the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office’s domestic violence clinic where she helped victims get restraining orders.
During the summer between her second and third year in law school, Peggy worked for Family Services of America in Washington, DC, where she worked on the Welfare Reform Act; specifically, the child welfare block grant. Also, Peggy worked on the Adoption Assistance Act and the Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. She also helped a group of social workers and attorneys to start a battered women’s shelter in metro Washington, DC.
During her third year in law school, she worked at the United States Attorney’s Office. Some of the cases Peggy worked on include: one of the largest drug busts that used Greyhound buses to transport drugs from Sacramento to New York; civil rights violation cases at Cochran State Prison; illegal manufacturing of spy equipment; and the Unabomber case (death penalty provision). Peggy also screened prison civil rights cases for criminal prosecution.
Additionally, Peggy interned for a California State Senator and worked on the state welfare reform act and legislation to help grandparents who cared for their grandchildren in the foster care system be exempted from the 5-year welfare time limit.
After law school, Peggy was a Senate Fellow for a California State Senator. She worked on CALFED Bay-Delta restoration, California Water Plan 2020, Smog Check II, and Medicare to pay for RCFE, MTBE moratorium. Peggy also staffed social services and environmental bills. She served as the liaison with the congressional delegation.
Peggy also mentored a girl who was at risk for joining a gang or dropping out of school. It was a mentorship program started by Governor Pete Wilson.
After her Senate Fellowship, Peggy worked for Sacramento Child Advocates and represented children in juvenile dependency court. Peggy quickly realized that children in foster care were often represented by county counsel who also represented social workers. This was a conflict of interest. Using her experience in the legislature, she went to Senator Johannesen with a bill proposal to amend Welfare and Institutions Code, Section 317 and ensured that all children who entered the foster care system have independent counsel who advocate for their best interests. That bill was signed into law, so now all foster children have independent counsel.
The next year, Peggy proposed another bill to amend Welfare and Institutions Code, Section 361.5, Subdivisions (b)(10) and (12), which denied reunification services to a parent for his/her subsequent child when he/she failed to reunify with the sibling or the half-sibling, and chronic use of drugs. That bill was signed into law too.
Peggy also authored two articles on child dependency law that were published in the California Lawyer’s Magazine.
She later worked for the California Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division, where she prosecuted criminals who abused and neglected victims in licensed facilities (foster homes, foster family agencies, child care centers, residential care facility for the elderly, adult day care, and adult residential facility).
Peggy then went to work at the California Office of the Attorney General, Criminal appeals, Writs, and Trial section.
For the past 11 years, she has been the president of the Board of Directors for Lifesteps Children and Family Services. This statewide organization provides services to developmentally delayed children.
Peggy serves as a representative on the Transportation Corridor Agencies and Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District. She is on the Regional Council for Southern California Agencies of Governments and chairs the Community, Education, and Human Development Committee and the Regional Housing Needs Assessment Subcommittee.
Finally, Peggy is the proud mom of two daughters who attend public schools. Her husband, Dr. James Huang, is a primary care physician.