Grad to Use Loyola Public Interest Fellowship to Continue Immigrant Advocacy
Anabel Merino ’18 has been a student advocate in the Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic, the Collateral Consequences of Conviction Justice Project and the Loyola Pro Se Mediation Advocacy Clinic – three components of the Loyola Social Justice Law Clinic. In each program, respectively, she has had the opportunity to represent clients seeking immigration relief, those seeking to restart their lives after criminal convictions and clients with cases before the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
After graduation, Merino plans to continue her focus on public interest law. As a recipient of the 2018 Loyola Law School Post-Graduate Fellowship in Public Interest Law, Merino will provide post-conviction representation to immigrants facing deportation focusing on adult detainees in Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody for criminal convictions that may have been avoided if their defense attorneys had properly advised them of the immigration consequences of such pleas.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue law school, and how did Loyola's clinical offerings impact that decision?
A: I decided to become a lawyer because I wanted to give back to my community. Growing up in an immigrant household made me aware of the lack of opportunities and the injustices undocumented immigrants face. Being in the Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic, the Collateral Consequences of Conviction Justice Project and the Loyola Pro Se Mediation Clinic gave me the avenues and tools to make my goal of being an advocate a reality.
Q: How did your participation in your clinic make a difference in your Loyola education?
A: My participation in the clinics gave me the chance to step outside of the classroom and see the impact the law could have on the lives of real people.
Q: What has been the most memorable part of your clinical experience?
A: My most memorable experiences came out of my interactions with clients. They put an incredible amount of faith in me and genuinely demonstrated that they trusted me as their representative. The skills I gained are vital to my work as an attorney. What I learned in the clinics will be something I can use in future client relationships.
Q: How has your clinical experience prepared you to be an attorney for others?
A: My legal experience prepared me to be an attorney for others by giving me the knowledge and practical skills to navigate a complex legal system for those who don't have the ability to defend themselves. It made me understand that having knowledge of the law was only one of many steps, and that being able to apply it and help your client understand the process was the greater task at hand.
Q: Finish this sentence: "If my time in the Loyola Social Justice Law Clinics has taught me anything, it is ________.”
A: That being a legal advocate carries more weight than just being somebody who knows the law. It means being able to understand where your client is coming from, as well as where their priorities lie, to truly serve their needs and work toward their goals.