Featured Lawtina: Susana Sandoval

LawtinaJD.com/OfficialLawtina arose from stories similar to Susana’s. We are so moved by her drive and dedication, and by her parent’s love and spirits. It truly is an honor to provide this stage for Susana to tell her story. Thank you, Susana! Keep shinning and thriving! 

“I share my story in hopes of inspiring other immigrants and DACA recipients to be resilient in pursuing their dreams!

 

I was born in Mexico City, but was raised in Chicago, Illinois since I was two years old. For twenty-three years, I was an undocumented immigrant, but for fifteen of those years I had no idea. My parents shielded me from this reality for as long as they could, and their unconditional love and dedication to my success blinded me to their hardships. When I am asked to talk about my story, I explain that this story is really is about them. They have made unbelievable sacrifices. They are the two most selfless human beings I know; they left behind their families and lives only so that my brother and I could have bright futures. And, they achieved it!

 

I have known that I wanted to be an attorney for a long time, but there were many that told me that it was an unachievable goal for me because of my status. I remember that in high school my counselor told me that I would be lucky to even have the opportunity to attend any college. That day, I went home and cried, thinking how unfair it was because I had worked so hard to be a good student. My wise parents told me, you keep working hard and doors will open. I trusted them and did just that. The following year, I was admitted into the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on a full-ride scholarship, as an undocumented student.

 

After graduating from UIUC, I was again advised against pursuing my dream of becoming an attorney. They warned me that I would never be able to practice in the United States due to my status. In 2012, my prayers were answered, I became a DACA recipient and started working at a nonprofit that provides immigration legal services to low-income immigrant survivors of violent crimes. Through working there, I identified my own parent’s eligibility for immigration relief and helped them apply. In 2015, I had the privilege of handing my parents their visas. Gaining legal status has transformed their lives. Being the one to help them with that process is a feeling I will never be able to properly describe, but I know that I am blessed to be able to give back to them even a portion of what they have given me.

 

For more than five years, I worked with numerous immigrant women who shared their hardships, including stories of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, and employment exploitation. As an immigrant, I thought I understood the hardships faced by immigrant women in the United States, but my challenges do not compare to horrors faced by the clients I met. Tormented and shocked by the abuses and oppression these women face, I decided to dedicate my life to help my community. I helped many immigrant women obtain humanitarian visas; I also saw that they had so many more legal needs. Recognizing the enormous unmet legal needs of immigrant women was the deciding factor for me to attend law school.

 

Law school was no easy feat, especially when my DACA status was constantly being attacked in the courts. The entire time I just reminded myself of my parents’ advice. I was resilient, I worked hard, and again opportunities availed themselves to me. I have been selected as a 2019 Equal Justice Works Fellow! Every year Equal Justice Works gives a select few the opportunity to design a public interest project that addresses an issue faced by underserved communities. For the next two years, I will defend low-wage immigrant Latina women workers against wage theft, unsafe work conditions, sexual assault, trafficking and other abuses by advocating for them in court and by presenting bilingual know-your-rights educational sessions.

 

My life experiences have made me a more confident, stronger and determined person. I have learned to face my challenges fearlessly and not allow them to defeat me, and I am committed to use my privilege to help the Latino immigrant community.

                    

Remember that any dream is possible if you dedicate yourself to achieving it. No obstacle is unsurmountable. If you must move mountains to get there, then that is exactly what you must do!”

You can read more about Susana’s Equal Works Justice Fellowship here: 

https://www.kentlaw.iit.edu/news/2019/equal-justice-works-fellow-2019-susana-sandoval-vargas