2013 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Maria Ignacia Rodriguez

Maria Ignacia Rodriguez

Name of Host Organization: National Immigration Law Center
City, State: Los Angeles, California
Issue area: Immigrant Populations
Sponsors: Greenberg Traurig, LLP

The Project

Ignacia is litigating, providing policy analysis and education, and advocating to increase access to education, health care, and other state benefits for low-income immigrant youth and children, particularly those who qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
U.S. laws and policies significantly limit immigrant children and youth from being able to integrate as equal members of our society. Immigrant children and youth want the opportunity to work, study, and live in the U.S. without the fear of being deported and without experiencing the social stratification that comes with being undocumented. In an attempt to provide some relief, President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012, which provides certain undocumented youth the opportunity to work and live in the United States. This development presents a unique and unprecedented opportunity for immigrants' rights advocates to ensure undocumented immigrant youth have full access to services and benefits. DACA also presents an opportunity to push for more rights for these individuals, including long-term status for undocumented youth and children and expanding the pool of DACA applicants.
Highlights to Date: 
In the first year, Ignacia has:
• Protected the due process rights of unaccompanied children through application of the Orantes decision and policy work
• Provided technical assistance to 40 individuals seeking immigration advice
• Created NILC’s DACA Renewal Process FAQs
• Drafted comments and advocacy letters to the Department of Homeland Security making recommendations on the DACA process
• Provided webinars, presentations, and workshops to more than 1,000 people on how to apply for DACA and on life after DACA (e.g., how to obtain a driver’s license and how to access higher education)
What's Next: 
In the next year, Ignacia plans to:
• Continue litigation efforts with partner organizations, advocates, and pro bono attorneys
• Conduct workshops and trainings aimed at diverse audiences
• Conduct research for potential litigation efforts and begin to develop litigation strategies in collaboration with partner organizations
• Create materials and resources including “best strategies” for opposing legislative efforts to restrict the rights of undocumented immigrant children and youth

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