Lighting Up Underrepresented Communities

By Alan Cardenas-Moreno, J.D. Class of 2022

For many people, planning for the next Thanksgiving or Christmas is a no brainer.  Their decisions are made without regard to future instability or concerns about their eligibility to work or ability to live where they want to live.  Others lack future stability and certainty which makes it the first thing one thinks of when it comes to decision making.  Imagine being admitted to the college of your dreams but not be able to attend for legal inability to receive aid, or imagine a work permit expiring in a handful of months with low chances of renewal and a child to raise.  Any sort of assistance that goes towards a more stable and certain future is imperative to members of these communities.  This is exactly what the William and Mary Law School Immigration Clinic strives to do: to advocate for these communities that for far too long have not had acknowledgement or support.  

As someone who was raised in a predominantly Hispanic community, it is highly rewarding for me to be part of the Immigration Clinic as an interpreter.  My role puts me in a unique position where I am helping the student advocate and client to communicate.  Sometimes this means walking through questions on forms, but sometimes this means asking questions about traumas that the clients have experienced.  Asking about traumatic events is challenging.  But, each answer sheds light on the realities of life for the communities the Clinic serves. 

Far too many times, I hear people questioning why someone would flee a country.  The question itself assumes that there is a choice.  But, what good of a choice is it when the choice is between leaving or living constantly victimized? In essence, the choice of leaving boils down to not losing anything with prospects of gaining everything, such as a home, job, and basic needs–things that most people take for granted.  

The process of helping a client get the stability that they seek is long.  Without coming from a similar background, the amount of care taken by the student advocates is impressive.  When I see the kind of care that the student advocates have for their clients, it is not surprising to see that the clients obtain favorable end results.  The individual victories are great, but the victories combined with more awareness of the needs of underrepresented communities are even better. The needs are immense, but with more attorneys and student advocates taking the initiative to help, we get one step closer to providing stability and certainty in a person’s life.