Lawyers Are Heroes! Meet Immigration Attorney Maria Andrade
After the Executive Action on border security were issued by the Trump Administration in January, attorney Maria Andrade took immediate action. Since then her firm, Andrade Legal, has held weekly meetings to keep not only her clients up to date with shifting laws and regulations, but also to include the community around immigrants who want to stay informed and be of service. The group has grown and ultimately became the the Idaho Organizing Project.
Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
A lot of that was influenced by my extended family, farm workers in California. I felt strongly about providing access to legal systems to people who are either intimidated by them or feel that the system is unresponsive because of their economic status, cultural issues or language issues.
What is your area of practice and why did you choose it?
I was always interested in immigration law but I came to that by way of working with farm workers, doing wage and hour and collective bargaining representation. I discovered that people were generally very hesitant or not willing to work the court system if they didn’t have a clear sense of how this may or may not affect their immigration status.
Has the back and forth from the current Administration with regard to immigration affected your clients?
Oh yeah, completely. I work with a clientele that in general is anxious and worried because they are aware of the possibility of being deported and how precarious their legal status is. Layer on top of that the vitriol of the discussion about immigration in the public debate…
How did this weekly meeting at your office begin?
The backlash against immigrants instantly followed the election: We learned, first and second hand incidents of immediate bullying in schools across the state. Kids were being taunted as young as in the 3rd and 4th grade. Even Boise State students were called ‘wetbacks.’ It was horrid.
We had a meeting the first Saturday after the election: We needed to provide accurate information for our clients and family members who were scared, who didn’t know where to go and felt attacked. They were asking questions like, “Can they take my citizenship?” or “I’m undocumented. Can they deport my U.S. citizen kids?” We also knew that there were people who felt very strongly about wanting to do something immediately to help folks. So the people who showed up at the meeting were clients, client families, but there were also social workers, educators, community activists, and folks who worked with refugees.
What is the most valuable thing that you do for your clients?
We help convey accurate information about a pretty complex topic in a culturally sensitive, humanitarian and somewhat simple way. And that’s both the good and the bad. Sometimes there isn’t anything we can do to help someone legalize their status. The myth that everyone needs to just legalize and fill out paperwork is a lie. There are thousands of people who would love to legalize. They have no way to and I have to tell them, “I don’t see any path for you to be able to legalize into the United States.”
If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be?
I would want to be a journalist. Or, if I didn’t want to think about anything, I would be a gardener.
What are you most proud of on your resume?
I’m really proud of the work the firm has done on behalf of the Central American migrant crisis. Almost every member of our legal team spent at least a week down in either Texas or Arizona beginning in the summer of 2014 through 2015 during the Central American migrant crisis; which unfortunately continues today. They were detaining asylum seeking mothers and kids indiscriminately. We took five cases pro bono — one to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Since the 2010 Supreme Court decision Padilla v. Kentucky, we’ve done many presentations and writing throughout the state for defense attorneys about the basics of immigration law and the obligation to advise non-citizens defendants about the immigration consequences of picking a guilty plea.
What is something your clients would never guess about you?
I played collegiate soccer and am a crazy soccer fan. I’m also super forgetful in my personal life. When my family and friends come to the office, they are blown away. They cannot believe what a tight ship I run. But I use all of that energy there. The rest of it — as long as I get up and get dressed and get to work on time, it’s fine. That’s all I need.
LeanLaw believes that lawyers are heroes, critical to the rule of law in a free society. You can find out more about Maria Andrade at Andrade Legal. If you know a heroic lawyer whom we should spotlight, please let us know in the comments below.
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