Dream Act attorney Rosa Gomez '08 fights for immigrants' rights
April 16, 2012
When you call Rosa Gomez ’08 at her office, you’ll hear a friendly “hola.” Her first language, Spanish, is a necessity since 90 percent of her clients are Mexican and the other 10 percent of South American descent. They too, must feel a sense of calm and relief when Gomez picks up the phone to know someone is on their side.
“I love being able to empower people and change their opinions about attorneys,” said Gomez, staff attorney for the Dream Act & Immigrant Youth Outreach Program at Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, California. “Many immigrants have negative perceptions of attorneys and it is nice to see them dispelled.”
Her passion for immigrants’ rights comes from her experience growing up in an immigrant community. “Both my parents were born in Mexico and immigrated to the United States,” said Gomez. “I came to law school to gain knowledge that would allow me to change the social system, better serve my community, and allow me to live my ideals.”
As a Dream Act attorney, Gomez works on client intakes, case reviews, drafts, edits, and reviews all documents prepared, giving out legal advice and referrals. She often goes to court and establishes orders, files motions, and represents her clients, as well as recruits and supervises students, attorneys, and other volunteers. “I also have the honor of advocating for immigration reform and often lead community education and ‘Know Your Rights’ presentations,” said Gomez.
As the recipient of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Non-Profit National Day of Action Scholarship, Gomez will be lobbying for immigration reform and meeting with various representatives to discuss immigration law in Washington, D.C. this month.
“I know this is exactly the kind of work I should be doing,” said Gomez. “I am so thankful for having the privilege and honor to assist these clients. Everyone deserves the right to legal guidance and representation. It makes me feel like I am changing lives for the better and making a difference in our society. It is extremely rewarding work and I get to touch my clients’ hearts and fight for what I believe in.”
History of the Dream Act
The purpose of the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act, also known as the Dream Act, is to help those individuals who meet certain requirements, have an opportunity to enlist in the military or go to college and have a path to citizenship, which they otherwise would not have without this legislation.
Gomez supports the Dream Act because it would “create a path towards citizenship for undocumented youth who were brought to the United States at a young age, have graduated high school, and now want to pursue higher education or the military,” said Gomez. “In my professional life, I have been able to get to know the people that the Dream Act would affect. They want to give back to their country. They were brought here as babies and children and had no choice in breaking the law to enter the United States without the proper documents or in overstaying their visas. The United States is the only home they know. They feel like Americans in every way, but they don’t have the proper documentation to be here. Many even want to serve in the military. Many of these young people have no way to obtain the proper documentation. The law as it exists is against them and so many would benefit from the Dream Act.”
Many of Gomez’s clients are even victims of violent crimes. “They feel empowered when they tell me their stories and how they were able to survive and thrive after the abuse,” said Gomez.
“I also love working with youth. My youngest client is 8-years-old, and my older clients are in their late 30s. They are full of life and many don’t understand what being undocumented entails. Many have been abandoned, abused, or neglected by their parents and it is amazing to see their resilience. They inspire and energize me every day. I look forward to hearing more of these stories and figuring out how I can help them.”
During law school, Gomez gained experience and a taste of what it was like to be an immigration attorney. "My favorite memory was writing a brief to the Board of Immigration Appeals and winning cancellation of removal for my client. He was going to be able to stay in the country with his wife, a U.S. citizen. I recall calling his wife with the good news, and she cried tears of happiness over the phone with me. It was extremely rewarding and I felt honored to have been that client’s legal advocate. I knew at that time that I wanted to continue that kind of work.”
Gomez has provided support to the Law School's immigration clinic, the Center for Immigrants’ Rights, by providing the clinic with written materials to assist them in producing a handbook to aid attorneys working with immigrant victims of trafficking and domestic violence. She also has discussions with current law students about her experience as a practitioner in the immigration field.
Her advice to current students is honest and heartfelt: “The public interest sector is always stressful and challenging, but extremely rewarding,” says Gomez. “Reach out to agencies that practice the type of law you are interested in and try to get summer fellowships at these agencies. You will gain a lot of practical experience that will help you in applying for jobs after law school. The experience will also help you decide what kind of law you would like to practice.”