July 10, 2023 — University of Houston Law Center alumna Christina Ramos (J.D. ‘23) has received a 2023 Equal Justice Works Design-Your-Own Fellowship, a competitive nationwide, two-year postgraduate legal fellowship for public interest lawyers.
As part of the fellowship program, Ramos will be working with the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston's St. Francis Cabrini Center for Immigrant Legal Assistance. She will work to protect Afghan, Ukrainian, and other immigrants newly arrived in the Greater Houston area from deportation.
Ramos answered the following questions, providing insight into her time at UHLC as well as advice to law students.
What led you to pursue a legal education at UHLC?
I knew I wanted to practice immigration law, and I was drawn to UHLC’s Immigration Clinic as a way of exploring that option through experiential learning. Also, Houston is my hometown, my entire family is here, and the city has a diverse population and world-class amenities. Therefore, I couldn’t imagine being in any other city to pursue my legal education.
What did it mean to you to receive the 2023 Equal Justice Works Design-Your-Own Fellowship?
I was thrilled and grateful that my project with Catholic Charities was chosen. The EJW Fellowship aligns law graduates with a sponsor to fund a public interest project that the law grad designed with their host organization. I worked with Elise Griesmyer at the Catholic Charities St. Francis Cabrini Center for Immigrant Legal Assistance to develop a project that seeks to relieve the pressure on Houston immigration legal community resources; specifically, we focused on the unique legal immigration needs of recently arrived refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine. After submitting my application and interviewing during the first round, the Texas Access to Justice Foundation selected my project for sponsorship.
I’ll be working to protect Afghan and Ukrainian immigrants from deportation through direct representation before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Department of Homeland Security, and/or Immigration Court and help them apply for immigration relief for which they are eligible. I’ll also develop and provide pro se legal workshops for these immigrants, as well as build collaborative relationships with pro-bono attorneys and service organizations in Houston to replicate the workshop model and expand pro-bono capacity in Houston. I’m really excited to join Catholic Charities’ immigration legal team as an EJW Fellow in September. If only I could fast-forward through bar prep and the bar exam so I can get to work!
What is an accomplishment that you are proud of from your time at UHLC?
I received the 2022 Joseph Vail Memorial Scholarship through my advocacy work in the Immigration Clinic. I was honored and humbled because the success of our work is largely dependent on the immigrants’ dedication to their cases and their willingness to be open and vulnerable about very dark periods of their lives. Their cases can last up to a decade or more, and their perseverance, resilience, and work ethic fuel me to be a better advocate.
What were some of your favorite professors/memories here?
Some of my favorite professors were Professor Douglas Moll (take his Business Organizations and Secured Financing classes), Professor Meredith Duncan (I 1000% recommend her George Floyd Social Justice course), Professor Daniel Morales (his class discussions are deep and transformative), Professor Chris Heard (Clinic Director and one of the best professors and human beings), and, of course, Professor Lauren Simpson (her genuine care for her students made 1L year in the pandemic one of the few bright spots). My absolute favorite memory was taking the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic during my final semester. We had the best group that was hardworking and fun, and we had a blast learning under Prof. Heard’s guidance.
What was your favorite part of the John M. O’Quinn Law Building?
My favorite part was the Clinic Student Area: I loved being able to tuck away in the cubicles or smaller trial prep rooms and knock out work. I also enjoyed mingling with my classmates from other clinics and learning more about their work in those clinics. Only clinic students have access to that space, and we had a kitchen area with a coffee machine, microwave, and fridge for those days when we were hunkered down at school. Plus, Ms. Baines and Ms. Rosie are the all-stars who keep the clinic space running smoothly and look after the students and professors.
What is one valuable lesson you learned at UHLC?
The friendships you form during law school are some of the strongest and most necessary friendships of your life. Sometimes we sink into self-imposed isolation during our studies, and having that friend group uplifts you, mentors you, strengthens you, and even challenges you in a way that only furthers your growth. I would not be the person I am today without my law school posse.
What advice would you give to law students who are unsure of their next steps?
Talk to as many people as you can, especially those whose jobs, lifestyles, and even personality traits you admire. Take them out for a coffee and pick their brains about how they got to where they are and how they developed their hard and soft skills. It’s also a great way to make further connections because many times they’ll point you in the direction of additional contacts. Ask questions, be curious, and rest confident in the fact that life is never linear anyway. Nobody ever has it figured out 100% of the time!
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