Francisco Ugarte is a longtime immigrant rights and social justice advocate. Francisco currently manages the Immigration Defense Unit at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, where he provides direct representation for immigrants facing deportation, and advises criminal defenders how to avoid adverse immigration consequences resulting from a plea bargain. Hired and mentored by the late Jeff Adachi, he was named co-Public Defender of the Year in 2018 for his work representing Jose Ines Garcia Zarate in one of the country's highest profile homicide trials. In 2017 after the election of then President Donald Trump, Francisco helped lead the formation of the Public Defender's first deportation defense unit, designed to provide an emergency line of defense for immigrants in deportation proceedings but unable to afford a lawyer. The unit is now California’s largest deportation defense provider for immigrants who are detained and facing deportation. Prior to working at the Public Defender's Office, Francisco worked at Dolores Street Community Services, where he founded and built that organization's first deportation defense program amidst a climate of large scale workplace and home immigration raids. In 2009, Francisco litigated Matter of Garcia-Garcia, 25 I&N Dec. 93 (BIA 2009), the first immigration case which held that a non-citizen could request a court to order that ICE remove an ankle bracelet from a non-citizen in deportation proceedings. Francisco was recognized in 2015 by Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA) for his work representing survivors of domestic violence wrongfully turned over to ICE for deportation, and in 2011 by Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) for his immigration raids defense work.

Francisco started his career as a union organizer in 1994, where he worked for eight years helping workers build and strengthen their unions. After graduating from CUNY School of Law in 2005, he worked as a labor attorney at Leonard Carder, LLP, where he defended workers and unions in state, federal, and administrative courts. He has played key roles in local and statewide fights to strengthen San Francisco's sanctuary ordinance, and frequently lectures on topics relating to the merger of immigration and criminal law. He is regularly quoted in the media on issues of immigrant rights.