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Headshot of Jessica Martinez

Jessica I. Martinez

  • Hosted by New Mexico Immigrant Law Center
  • Sponsored by Disaster Resilience Program
  • Service location Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Law school University of New Mexico School of Law
  • Issue area Disaster Recovery, Disaster Response and Preparedness
  • Fellowship class year 2022
  • Program Disaster Resilience Program

The Project

Jessica Martinez (she/her/hers/ella) is a staff attorney at New Mexico Immigrant Law Center (NMILC), where she represents unaccompanied minors and immigrant children eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), offers consultations, and provides direct representation in all phases of their cases, including removal defense.

Jessica was inspired to do this work because she is proud to be a daughter of a strong immigrant woman. Understanding her mother’s sacrifices and growing up in a mixed-status family in a border town taught her the power of being community-centered and working collectively toward common goals. Working with immigrant youth and families has fueled her passion for helping make generational change, and it allows her to remain optimistic that through community power, anything is possible.

Fellowship Plans

COVID-19 disproportionally impacted immigrants—especially children and families in rural communities. Immigrants in New Mexico, notably in rural communities, often lack access to health care and resources. Much of the time, people in these communities cannot afford legal services. In New Mexico, there is a shortage of immigration attorneys and a lack of access to pro bono legal immigration services in rural communities. Immigrant children need SIJS—a humanitarian form of immigration relief for abused, abandoned, and neglected children—which is critical to ensuring their safety, stability, and access to permanent legal status.

Jessica’s project will engage in community outreach to increase the well-being of New Mexican immigrant children by developing relationships with rural medical clinics, schools, and social workers to create a referral system for families and children in need of critical immigration legal services. Jessica additionally served as a legal expert for the Special Immigrant Juvenile Classification Act, signed into law in April 2023, which increased access for immigrant youth in New Mexico to obtain SIJS. Jessica will help implement the law by providing trainings to judges and attorneys, and will host legal clinics to identify immigrant children that may qualify for this form of relief.

I am passionate about working with my community to ensure they are treated with dignity and respect, and to use my skills to find solutions to help them find legal relief or resources in a process that is stacked against them.

Jessica I. Martinez /
2022 Disaster Resilience Program Fellow

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