Student's Commitment to Justice is Fostered By Family

Seeing first-hand the inadequacies of immigration courts, Cecilia Equihua '16 aims to use her advocacy skills to improve access to justice for those often denied it.

In 2010, Cecilia Equihua ’16 learned her father was being deported back to Mexico a second time. Upon attempting to cross back into the U.S., Equihua’s father was apprehended and given a two-year jail sentence.

As a college graduate, Equihua’s family looked to her for a solution, but the business administration major didn’t know how to navigate the U.S. legal system any more than her family did.

“As I watched my dad go through these proceedings, and while I had time to reflect on things, I saw the injustices that occurred. I wanted to understand why the laws are the way they are,” she said.

Originally intent on pursuing a career in finance, her father’s impending legal challenges first started her on the path to law school, but the feeling of empowerment she’s gained at Loyola has made her embrace it.

With both complex legal terminology and a language barrier, Equihua’s father was at a huge disadvantage. Especially troubling was the lack of thoughtful legal advice her father received about the consequences of taking a plea deal. Equihua saw first-hand a void she could help fill.

“Seeing my family go through such difficulty motivated me to prevent someone else from going through a situation like this – where they are pleading and they don’t understand the consequences. That made me want to become an advocate,” said Equihua, who serves as co-vice president of La Raza de Loyola, the law school’s Latina/o student organization.

Equihua’s commitment to justice is fostered by her family. Her father has been an active role model in both her and her sister’s lives, and she is driven to see that other individuals are able to receive second chances. The third-year student plans to pursue a career with the LA County Public Defender, where she is currently clerking after a stint at the Clark County Public Defender’s Office in Las Vegas.

Crediting Loyola with giving her the tools needed to become an advocate, Equihua already is speaking up for those in need. She recently penned an op-ed urging Congress to resist passing mandatory minimum sentences for illegal re-entry by immigrants.

“That’s what I love about law school,” she said. “It’s a tool to empower you. I really do love that.”