I am a rising 2L, an incoming leader of the Berkeley Immigration Group (BIG), and a Henderson Center Scholar. I am also an East Bay Area native, the daughter of immigrants, and the first person in my family to be born in the U.S.. Part of my motivation in attending Berkeley Law was to serve the immigrant community that raised me, and I am so grateful to be able to do that through Berkeley Law’s pro bono program.”
[As a 1L student in the Berkeley Immigration Group (BIG)], I partook in a project that serves immigrants who are incarcerated in federal prison. BIG consists of a couple of different projects that serve detained immigrants. We work with Centro Legal de la Raza to ask ICE to not detain our clients once they completed their sentences. This is important as immigrants generally have a much greater chance at successfully fighting their deportation cases if they are not detained. Additionally, clients that are released can live on the “outside” after spending years in prison and can be reunited with their children and family members after years of separation. Organizations like Centro Legal de la Raza have been submitting these release requests to ICE for years. I was encouraged to see that the years of activism that lawyers at Centro and other organizations that saw little success still mattered because it compounded at the right moment to create better futures for our clients.
Coming into law school with the desire to do public interest can be difficult because so many aspects of our legal systems disenfranchise and punish the disadvantaged. However, my work with BIG portrayed to me that it can pay to hope and to fight for just results. A quote that connects me to this work comes from Proverbs 31:8: Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.
That’s why BIG’s work is important to me, and I am so excited to lead BIG next year. I am particularly thrilled to partner with legal organizations devoted to the abolition of immigrant detention centers, to create a community for 1L’s who are passionate about immigrant rights, and to continue to work to convince ICE to liberate our clients. I loved that I got to participate in pro bono work during my first semester of 1L because it grounded me in the reasons that I came to law school. I hope that my leadership for this upcoming year can provide a similar experience for 1L’s who are either interested in immigration pro bono work or who are committed to doing this work beyond law school.
Emily Chuah ‘24