Facing Uncertain Future, Immigrants Find Hope in Loyola Clinic

The Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic has been redoubling its efforts to help immigrants in the wake of the presidential election.

Jesika De Jesus admits that she’s worried about her ability to stay in the United States and finish her education. A student at East Los Angeles College, her parents brought her to the country when she was just 6 months old. Now, President-Elect Donald Trump’s campaign promise to deporting undocumented immigrants has suddenly clouded her future. Attending an outreach session with the Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic, she saw hope.

“Sometimes even though you’re scared, you have to keep positive about what’s going on,” she said. De Jesus resides legally in the U.S. thanks to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly known as DACA. DACA is for residents who came to the U.S. before their 16th birthday and had no lawful status as of June 15, 2012. Subject to prosecutorial discretion, the program could become obsolete when President Barrack Obama leaves the White House. For De Jesus, that’s difficult to contemplate.

“I’ve been here my whole life; I don’t know anything else,” she said. “With the new administration, I’m going back to square one. I’m hoping for the best.  Anything could happen as he takes office.”

De Jesus was attempting to allay her fears by attending a recent workshop led by Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic staff attorneys Alejandro Barajas ’15 and Sandra Ruiz ’15, both Loyola alumni. They provided students a primer about their rights and assuaged their fears with concrete steps to take to protect their status. Barajas provided the attendees with a realistic timeline for deportation proceedings (“think years, not months”) and provided pointers for dealing with red tape (“save health and other documents as proof of status”).

“The Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic has worked very hard to help as many long-term permanent residents be able to naturalize as we can,” Ruiz told the group. She and Barajas later advised the attendees that the clinic could help them obtain application fee waivers and navigate citizenship tests.

As the only community-based law school immigration clinic in the country, the Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic has been redoubling its efforts to help De Jesus and people like her in the wake of the presidential election. The work of their attorneys and students has helped quell uncertainty among members of the immigrant community with questions about their futures.

Clinic attorneys and students hold community intake sessions several days a week. Recently, they have coordinated an influx in Loyola student volunteers interested in helping in the wake of the presidential election. Their advocacy has been noted in the recent stories, including “Trump’s Victory Jolts Bay Area Minority Communities” in the San Francisco Chronicle, “California and Trump Are on a Collision Course Over Immigrants Here Illegally” in the Los Angeles Times and “Los Angeles Circles the Wagons” in the National Catholic Review.

 Recipients of the competitive 2012 Loyola Law School Post-Graduate Fellowship in Public Interest Law, Co-Directors Marissa Montes ’12 and Emily Robinson ’12 co-founded the clinic with the guidance of Professor Kathleen Kim.

Since its first clinical class in 2013, the Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic has grown to include 20 student advocates annually. Almost 50 students have assisted the clinic in conducting more than 7,000 client consultations. Students and clinic attorneys secure immigration relief for clients in the form of U-visas, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, DACA and more. Meanwhile, they host and co-sponsor community education events across Los Angeles County.

“We are lucky to be a part of Loyola Law School where we are truly trained to be lawyers for others,” said Robinson.

Want to make a difference in the community? Volunteer to assist as an attorney or student by emailing lijc@lls.edu. Or consider giving to the program by clicking here and selecting "Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic" as your designation.