"I am beyond grateful to Equal Justice America for the opportunity to launch my career as a public interest attorney specializing in immigration at LAF. Most of my clients navigate their lives without documentation or status. Many are subjected to unfair labor practices, intimidation, and violence, and threatened with deportation by their employer, partner, or trafficker. My work providing Immigration relief will make my clients safer at work and at home, and will keep their families united."
I was inspired to pursue a career advocating for immigrants’ rights in 2007, when I first worked with immigrant women in a legal clinic for victims of domestic violence. I volunteered at the clinic as an opportunity to hone my Spanish language skills, and provide translation and interpretation services. However, the experience quickly became so much more, as my clients told me their stories and I learned how legal assistance and immigration relief could break the cycle of abuse.
Last summer, I interned with LAF’s Immigrants and Workers’ Rights (IWR) Practice Group. As part of that internship, I handled an immigration case where my client’s abusive partner threatened her with her immigration status. My client and I communicated in French over the course of several interviews. When I gathered the details of her story, I learned how her partner confined her to the house, using threats and force to prevent her from leaving. Based on those interviews we determined the best strategy for obtaining immigration relief. She wanted to learn English, find work, and support her child. LAF’s assistance gave her the opportunity to build a safe and stable life for her family.
I also joined the IWR group on one of its many trips reaching out to low-wage workers and immigrants in some of the most remote and inaccessible parts of the state. The group visited over 50 sites across Illinois in two days, including public work sites, housing sites, labor camps, and community organizations. We met hundreds of workers and saw firsthand their deplorable living and employment conditions. We spoke with them about their legal rights and gave them much needed information about accessing resources. Several sites were so remote that workers could complete their work term without ever interacting with anyone outside of their employment, making these low-wage workers’ conditions ripe for exploitation. For many workers, our outreach was the first time they learned they had any rights. This is one of the fundamental ways IWR works to combat issues such as human trafficking, wage theft, and many other types of abuse and exploitation.
It has been ten years since I first realized that protecting immigrants’ rights was a way I could apply my passion for human rights and language skills to empower people living in poverty. Now, at this critical time, when access to legal services and the rights of vulnerable communities are under constant threat, I am honored to bring my commitment to advocating for immigrants to LAF as an EJA Fellow.