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Karla Cruz

Karla Cruz

Class of 2018

Hometown: Bay Area, Calif.
Undergraduate: UC Santa Cruz
Major: Politics and Latin American Latino Studies double major

Karla Cruz attended UC Santa Cruz where she doubled majored in politics and Latin American Latino Studies. After graduation, she worked at the International Institute of the Bay Area in Oakland, CA. She discovered early on that she had a deep-seated passion for working with the immigrant community in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area.

She explains, "I worked as the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) coordinator of the office. My job was to do outreach at high schools and bilingual elementary schools to educate parents about DACA. I also coordinated DACA legal clinics and trained interns who assisted attorneys with filing DACA application. I loved this job because I was able work with the community. The smile on the DACA recipients' faces when they received their approvals was just an amazing feeling. This experience launched my interest in working in the legal world. I later worked at Centro Legal de la Raza and later worked as an immigration paralegal at HaleyNelson & Heilbrun, LLP. After working in these great places I knew that law school was the next step."  

Karla's role at this nonprofit organization ultimately led her to pursuing law school. She recalls the lack of diversity she observed while working in the legal nonprofit sector and as an immigration paralegal.  

Karla states, "After working with the immigrant community in Oakland Ca,  I saw that there is a strong need of Spanish speaking attorneys.  One day I went to immigration court with my supervising attorney. I saw that the majority of the people in the court  were Latino immigrants. However, the attorneys and judges that were there were not Latino. I thought to myself, there needs to be more people that look like me as attorneys."  

Though she is originally from the Bay Area, Karla is proud of her Salvadoran heritage and stays connected to her community through my activism and volunteering. She is the president of McGeorge Latinx Law Student Association. She states, "I joined this organization because I wanted to be a part of a Latino community here on campus. I am proud of this organization because we re-launched LLSA in 2016.  I wanted to help start up the organization and make sure that future LLSA members have a community and a place to feel connected."  

Karla became a certified law student through McGeorge's Immigration Clinic. As a law student, she has worked with great organizations that have offered her extensive training and learning opportunities in preparation for her future legal career.  

Karla shares, "The summer after my 1L year, I interned at East Bay Community Law Center Immigration Unit. I represented several unaccompanied minors from Central America. All of my clients were applying for asylum. I even went to immigration court and represented three clients. I was so honored to work here because I was forced to think and work like an immigration attorney. By my second year, I was a certified law student at McGeorge immigration clinic. I learned so much about the removal proceedings and was able to work on complex cases. After my second year, I interned at Immigration Legal Center and worked with immigration experts. This internship was so much fun because I helped with the sanctuary city policies and learned so much about policy and lobbying."

Karla is still involved with the East Bay Community Center, serving as their organization as an intern.   Aside from her studies, Karla volunteers at legal clinics, attends immigration rallies, and participates in demonstrations. She also volunteers her time to helping first-generation high school students with college applications. Karla is looking forward to graduating in May and continuing to work in immigration law.

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