By Lauren Dana
As a law student at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, I knew that I wanted to advocate on behalf of marginalized immigrant and migrant populations. In 2017, Equal Justice America awarded me a two-year fellowship to do just that, and work as an immigration attorney with Legal Aid Chicago’s Immigrants and Workers’ Rights Practice Group. My post-graduate fellowship served as a critical bridge between law school and my first law job, and I am so grateful to Equal Justice America for the opportunity to launch my career as a legal aid attorney right out of law school.
Legal Aid Chicago provides free legal assistance to low-income individuals living in metropolitan Chicago to help them resolve civil legal matters such as domestic violence, consumer fraud, wage theft, and eviction. The agency’s Immigrants and Workers’ Rights Practice Group provides services in the areas of immigration, human trafficking, and migrant farmworker law to individuals living and working throughout Illinois.
"In my two years as an Equal Justice America Fellow, I advocated on behalf of immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual harassment and assault, and human trafficking."
In my two years as an Equal Justice America Fellow, I advocated on behalf of immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual harassment and assault, and human trafficking. I advised over 115 individuals, and filed various petitions for immigration relief on behalf of 52 immigrant survivors and their family members, providing these members of our community a path to a safer and more stable life. I represented two immigrant survivors in their related employment discrimination complaints, and successfully negotiated a settlement. I also trained community members, service providers, and colleagues on evolving legal issues facing immigrant and migrant populations.
My fellowship allowed me to dive right into the work that I wanted to do – advocating for low-income, marginalized members of my community. I navigated a complex, discretionary, and ever-changing immigration law landscape in order to help my clients. I learned from my talented colleagues, a team of fierce advocates committed to social justice. I learned from my resilient clients who continuously inspire me. I received invaluable experience and professional development at a premier legal aid organization, through which I served immigrant communities at a critical time. I could not have asked for a better post-graduate experience.
As I completed my fellowship in 2019, Legal Aid Chicago hired me on as a staff attorney in the farmworker law project of the Immigrants and Workers’ Rights Practice Group. Thanks to my Equal Justice America fellowship, I had the experience and skills that made me the strongest candidate for the position, and I knew that Legal Aid Chicago would continue to provide me with the best opportunity to learn and grow early in my career. Since then, I have expanded my expertise beyond immigration law, as I advocate for migrant and seasonal farmworkers in matters related to wage theft, working and living conditions, occupational health and safety, human trafficking, and immigration. In my current role as the supervisor of the farmworker law project, I now lead my team of dedicated attorneys and paralegals as we work toward equal justice for our clients.
Thank you, Equal Justice America, for making my fellowship possible and setting me on this incredible path! I look forward to what Equal Justice America continues to make possible for aspiring advocates and immigrant and migrant communities.