A woman in a suit poses near a fence
Yessica López is a third-year law student at McGeorge School of Law.

I decided to pursue a legal career and come to McGeorge School of Law because I think it is the best way to give back to my community. My family and I emigrated from Mexico when I was six years old. In the following years, I experienced how daunting it is to live in a country without legal status. It is difficult to even enjoy life because you are constantly thinking about how anything can happen, and how you can get separated from your family. Fortunately for me, my parents were eligible to adjust my status before I turned 21.

However, this process was difficult to understand and riddled with poor “legal” advice. My parents did not speak the language and had little to no education. Unfortunately, they followed poor advice which caused devastating results for my siblings’ legal status. Like many other immigrants, my father came to the U.S. to ensure that his children have a better future. I witnessed his work in construction until his body eventually gave up on him. Thanks to him and his hard work, I have had access to higher education. I could never have achieved so many accomplishments back home.

I came to law school to pursue immigration law and ensure that I could guide other immigrants and refugees to the opportunities that I had. I hope to guide parents through the best pathway to secure legal status for themselves and their children. Law school has been difficult in so many ways; however, knowing that I get to offer my legal knowledge and experience to other immigrants and refugees, like myself, in the end has gotten me to the finish line.

Taking part in the Immigration Law Clinic has been the highlight of my time at McGeorge School of Law because I get to interact with clients and guide them through the legal system. Under the supervision of Supervising Attorney Blake Nordahl, I make decisions on my client’s cases that affect the rest of their lives. Helping a client access a pathway to adjust status completely changes their future. I know this from personal experience. Even helping our clients get employment authorization relieves many of their worries because they can seek better paying and less arduous jobs.

When clients come into the Clinic, they feel helpless and overwhelmed. My cohort and I have the amazing opportunity of letting many of them know they are eligible for immigration relief, and we will help them through that process. At the Clinic, I have also worked with clients that not only have to worry about their security but also have had to deal with traumatic experiences such as domestic violence, kidnapping, threats, and murder of immediate relatives. I am very thankful that the Clinic has allowed me to hear my clients’ stories and advocate for them in the legal system.

The Clinic allows us to experience our future as practicing attorneys. We learn how to help a client from the very beginning, from the initial consultation to case research, to apply for adjustment of status when their priority dates become current. I have had the opportunity to help my clients with U visas, asylum, special immigrant juvenile status, and immediate relative petitions. We also learn how to work with and guide clients that have experienced trauma and must relive this trauma at the Clinic. Although I know the Clinic will advocate for my clients after I graduate, I am extremely saddened when thinking about leaving my clients behind. The Clinic’s method has allowed me to get to know my clients on a personal level and form strong bonds with them.

By Yessica López, a third-year law student at McGeorge School of Law.