Susana Sandoval Vargas

  • Hosted by Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)
  • Sponsored by Discover Financial Services, Winston & Strawn LLP
  • Service location Chicago, Illinois
  • Law school Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Issue area Immigrant Populations
  • Fellowship class year 2019
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Susana provides direct representation, impact litigation and outreach to low-wage Latina immigrant workers in the Chicagoland area to empower them to defend their workplace rights and create systemic change.

There are more than 3 million low-wage immigrant Latina workers in the United States. These Latinas constitute more than two-thirds of the country’s low-wage immigrant women workers and make up large shares of the labor force in many service and light industrial occupations. Lack of formal education and limited English proficiency, combined with the fear of employer retaliation and immigration enforcement, leave this community vulnerable to illegal employment practices, including wage theft, unsafe workplace conditions, sexual harassment, and human trafficking. The challenges faced by Latina immigrant workers have been exacerbated by current immigration enforcement policies and the political environment. Fear has trickled into these women’s daily lives.

For more than five years, Susana worked at a nonprofit where numerous immigrant women shared their hardships with her, including stories of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, and employment exploitation. Tormented and shocked by the abuses and oppression these women face, Susana decided to dedicate her life to helping the immigrant community. Recognizing the enormous unmet legal needs of immigrant women was the deciding factor for her to attend law school and the inspiration behind her project.

Fellowship Plans

In the first six months, Susana will build partnerships with the local foreign consulates, government agencies and community partners to expand outreach to this marginalized community. She will also conduct Know-Your-Rights presentations in Spanish and English across the Chicagoland area to educate the immigrant community on their workplace rights and create and develop an intake process that will to screen potential clients.

As an immigrant, as a DREAMER, I know and understand first-hand the hardships that immigrants face in the United States every day. For that reason, I have dedicated my career to helping this community. I am passionate about empowering the immigrant community to protect and defend their civil rights. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to represent this vulnerable community against employer abuses.

Susana Sandoval Vargas /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

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