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Headshot of Jessica Zarate

Jessica Zarate

  • Hosted by Houston Volunteer Lawyers
  • Sponsored by Disaster Resilience Program
  • Service location Houston, Texas
  • Law school University of Houston Law Center
  • Issue area Disaster Recovery, Disaster Response and Preparedness
  • Fellowship class year 2023
  • Program Disaster Resilience Program

The Project

Jessica Zarate (she/her/hers) will work with Houston Volunteer Lawyers to support immigrant communities facing legal problems due to humanitarian crises by assisting them with their naturalization process and helping to remove other barriers to naturalization and disaster resiliency such as tax, probate, and other civil legal needs.

There are over 310,000 immigrants living in the greater Houston area eligible to naturalize and begin receiving all the rights and privileges afforded to U.S. The potential for social change and community financial empowerment is significantly impacted by assisting those eligible in our communities to become U.S. Citizens, thus enabling them the opportunity to engage in voting and other forms of civic participation. Historically, naturalization has also included access to better paying jobs and scholarships. It also serves to ameliorate barriers and vulnerabilities that lead to further disenfranchisement particularly in the aftermath of natural disasters. It is also the ultimate protection against deportation.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Jessica will be responsible for identifying and screening individuals eligible for naturalization. She will organize and run naturalization clinics utilizing Houston Volunteer Lawyers pro bono network with the goal of serving 200 individuals by the end of year one and 250 by the end of year two. Jessica will conduct outreach events to immigrant communities in collaboration with staff focused on supporting other civil legal needs such as tax and probate to help holistically address issues that impact the community’s disaster resiliency and recovery.

Inspiration

Jessica immigrated from Mexico to the U.S. a decade ago and since the beginning, the Houston community welcomed her with open arms. She believes that by doing this work for her community, she is giving back to all those individuals who supported her and believed in her all these years and would inspire other immigrants to continue working to pursue their goals.

“As an immigrant myself, I have experienced how difficult it might be to navigate the U.S. legal system. Now that I am a legal advocate, I want to empower, educate, and help my community with their legal needs.”

Jessica Zarate /
2023 Disaster Resilience Program Fellow

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