Photo of Heidi Gonzalez

Heidi Gonzalez

  • Hosted by Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic
  • Sponsored by Microsoft Corporation, Reed Smith LLP
  • Service location Los Angeles, California
  • Law school Loyola Law School, Los Angeles
  • Issue area Immigrant Populations
  • Fellowship class year 2021
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project                               

Heidi (she/her/hers) is hosted by the Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic (“LIJC”) and advocates for the advancement of the rights of the immigrant population through direct legal services, education, and community empowerment while teaching law students effective immigrants’ rights lawyering skills in a real-world setting.

Heidi tailored her Fellowship project to assist immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children and who are often unaccompanied. Heidi extends her work to both children who are recent arrivals and young adults, often categorized as Dreamers. Through this project, Heidi acknowledges that Dreamers, and many undocumented young adults, form part of the unaccompanied child narrative given that (1) a high number entered as unaccompanied children and (2) could have qualified for SIJS, a pathway which opens an avenue to residency, had they been properly identified earlier by properly trained service providers. However, many have aged out and can no longer apply for SIJS, thus they are now only left with the hope of temporary DACA protection.

Heidi seeks to remedy this issue by assisting Dreamers with advance parole, which if approved allows them to have a lawful entry into the United States and thus a potential ability to adjust status in the future. There is currently no outreach to this population of immigrants because they are often overlooked, but Heidi aims to provide adequate assistance to ensure they have a comprehensive immigration consultation and competent representation.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the first year of the Fellowship, Heidi has:

  • Provided brief service, intakes, and referrals to 35 individuals
  • Began full representation of 16 individuals ranging from initial stages of preparing filings in state court, monitoring priority dates for applicants waiting to become eligible to adjust status and responding to Requests for Evidence for clients whose green card application is in process with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • Facilitated completion of 12 Advance Parole applications for Loyola Law School alumni and current Loyola Marymount University students.
  • Co-created an educational program for DACA recipients in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico focused on immigration law and servicing unaccompanied children in transit.
  • Co-taught seminars for LIJC regarding: client interviewing through a trauma-informed lens, cross cultural humility, intersectionality in immigration law, and declaration writing.

Next Steps

In the next year, Heidi plans to:

  • Continue advancing her case load
  • Create a teaching guide about the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status process in state court
  • Create bilingual educational materials for migrants in transit
  • Conduct a general immigration training for pro bono attorneys at Reed Smith LLP
  • Host Immigration Law Panel to promote immigration law practice amongst students. Participants in the panel will include immigration attorneys in the non-profit, private, and corporate sector.

Representing unaccompanied children is my passion because, while I can’t undo the trauma they’ve suffered, I can redress the harms by dedicating my career to advocating for their rights. Further, as a first-generation student, one of my forefront goals is to increase opportunities for students who come after me. This project allows me to see both of my goals come to fruition.

Heidi Gonzalez /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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