Immigration has been a pressing issue dating back to childhood for recent graduate Claudia Chavarria, L’21. Becoming an advocate for her community, Chavarria is a staff attorney with the Released Children Unit at the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES).
Chavarria primarily works on special immigrant juvenile status visas, adjustment of status cases and asylum cases. In her day-to-day tasks, she prepares applications for special immigrant juvenile cases and adjustment of status cases. A large portion of Chavarria’s time is spent communicating with clients, collaborating on items such as affidavits for asylum cases.
“It’s important to communicate with them to collect the correct information for their applications,” Chavarria said. “It’s also a matter of continuously reviewing cases to see the best form of relief that’s available to them and constantly communicating and updating them about their cases.”
Chavarria’s upbringing in El Paso, Texas initially piqued her interest in immigration.
“Being from a border city, I would see my friends affected by the immigration changes and that is what ultimately grew my curiosity in my current area of work,” Chavarria said.
Before she arrived at KU Law, Chavarria volunteered at Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for children of El Paso, and the experience solidified her decision to attend law school and focus on immigration law.
“I loved seeing how I could actually change somebody’s life because that’s always something I wanted to do,” Chavarria said. “Many people think the main way you can help somebody is being a nurse or a doctor, but I just didn’t want to be close to blood or anything like that.”
Even though Chavarria’s work is not about physically saving lives, her work grants many immigrants an entirely new life in America.
“It’s incredible seeing someone gain status in the country and what they can do for themselves or their family and any future generations,” Chavarria said. “It really impacts me, and it’s why I enjoy doing this work.”
Chavarria dreamed of being a lawyer as a young girl, even if she was unsure of all the career entailed. When she started looking into law school, the decision to attend KU was an easy one.
“It was a gut feeling that KU was the right place for me,” Chavarria said. “It came back to the attention I was receiving from administration.”
Chavarria had no questions left unanswered and was even able to meet with current KU students from her hometown.
“It was just the sense of community I was receiving even before I accepted my offer to attend KU Law,” Chavarria said. “That support continued after I accepted, and I still wasn’t even in Kansas yet.”
At KU Law, courses in immigration law and asylum played an important role in preparing Chavarria for her current position.
“Asylum and Refugee really helped me because we got to go through real-life cases and analyze how the courts have been making decisions,” Chavarria said.
She was impressed and grateful for Professor David Gottlieb’s dedication to the subject matter.
“Even after the class had ended, our professor was sending us updates about this big case going on,” Chavarria said. “It was really helpful since the updates were about the area I was trying to specialize in.”
Chavarria collected more knowledge and experience during law school as a clerk at Treviño Law Office L.L.C.
Throughout law school and in her current position, Chavarria has always valued her mental health.
“I have great supervisors who prioritize my mental health above all,” Chavarria said. “They advocate for their employees and having that support system around us when things get frustrating … that’s really amazing.”
Chavarria recommends KU Law students put a special emphasis on their mental health and refrain from comparing personal progress to peers’ progress.
“You don’t have to burn yourself out or feel guilty when you’re not working 24/7,” Chavarria said. “Remember no one knows everything. It’s okay if you feel like you’re lost at times. Just find yourself again, be patient and always ask questions.”
— By Sydney Halas