I became involved in McGeorge School of Law’s Immigration Law Clinic during the summer of 2023 after my first year of law school. I wanted to work at the Clinic to thoroughly explore my options and try out a branch of law I was interested in and had always wanted to work in. While I came into the Clinic with no prior formal experience, my passion for social justice and advocacy fueled me during my time there to strive for the best for our clients.
When I came into the Clinic, I was assigned cases on naturalization, special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS), asylum, re-parole, and varying motions concerning removal orders. I truly had no idea how immersive and hands-on the Clinic was, and it took me by surprise to have such responsibility so quickly. I learned early on to trust myself and use the knowledge I acquired during my first year of law school to apply it to real life cases. I had the opportunity to really connect with our clients by meeting with them in person, calling them every week to update them on their case, and form my own legal conclusions by writing memorandums with the help of our supervising attorneys.
Community Legal Services runs as its own pro-bono law firm within McGeorge School of Law, making legal help more accessible and available to the community. It has been especially gratifying to assist the neighborhood of Oak Park, which is a historically underserved and low-income community in need of legal resources. The legal world can be difficult to navigate as it is, and that is especially true in the field of immigration law because it has so many complex forms and processes. I personally come from South Sacramento — not too far from Oak Park — so it has been rewarding to get to help the community I come from as well.
In addition to assisting community members that are in need, I have also been able to showcase my first language of Spanish to better assist our clients in the Clinic. I have predominantly worked on cases where the client only speaks Spanish. This summer has been so special because I not only gained professional skills in client interviewing, developing a case plan for my clients, and preparing declarations, but I also learned to do it in Spanish to serve our Latino community in Oak Park.
As a first-generation daughter to immigrant parents, I have experienced first-hand how challenging it can be navigating the immigration system without legal representation. The Immigration Law Clinic at McGeorge School of Law has without a doubt provided me with the practical skills to help our community through the challenging obstacles of immigration law. Being at the Clinic during the summer of 2023 was the highlight of my first year of law school, and I cannot recommend it enough. It has transformed me into a working professional and given me the confidence to continue to advocate for other underserved communities.
By Maritza Ortiz-Urrutia, a second-year law student at McGeorge School of Law.