Southern AZ Legal Aid
“My personal and academic experiences guided my decision to pursue law school. In high school, I witnessed my sibling’s experience in the education system as a disabled student. It wasn’t until my family was advised to seek legal assistance from a disability education attorney that my sibling was able to obtain the necessary support to succeed. In college, I took a class entitled, Visualizing Justice, to explore how legal rights are communicated to the public and how legal knowledge can be made more accessible. I am interested in learning how to empower low-income and working-class people to help themselves and organize their communities. I am interested in learning more about disability law, education law, and housing law. “
Jocelyn Garcia (’25) worked in SALA’s Consumer, Housing and Public Benefits Unit. She was exposed to a variety of lawyers in this unit and being able to work with such a variety of lawyers was a very useful learning experience for her. Jocelyn primarily worked on housing cases but she also worked on public benefits cases. Examples of those cases are unemployment insurance and Social Security disability denials.
Jocelyn worked under Alan Solot, the managing attorney for the Tucson Consumer Housing Public Benefits unit. Alan had this to say about Jocelyn summer clerkship:
“Jocelyn’s clerkship was excellent, from my perspective… Her legal research was always thorough, well written and useful. She was extremely helpful on a variety of cases and was eager to dive in and did so without hesitation. She never expressed any reservations about working on anything she’s assigned.
“For example, we had a case where a client’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher was terminated. Jocelyn did research on the topic, which was totally unknown to her at that time. We needed to review the City’s file. Jocelyn contacted the City employee in charge of the file, made necessary arrangements to meet at their office and then went to the City’s office that administers the Section 8 program to review the file. She obtained copies of relevant documents from the City’s file. This was all useful and valuable information for us, and it also was a learning experience for her. After that, she participated in the meeting with the client to discuss the case.”
“I am deeply grateful to everyone at SALA for teaching me and supporting me. At SALA, I was able to connect what I learned in the classroom to the lived experiences of Tucson community members. Under the supervision of an attorney, I was able to conduct legal research about property disputes and subsidized housing, draft demand letters, attend hearings, and evaluate a client’s legal rights and available remedies. Through this experience in legal aid work, I was affirmed in my desire to spend the rest of my life advocating for people, instead of the law.”
“I decided to attend the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law after reading a journal of environmental law and policy article on climate-induced migration and the impact of environmental change. I am a first-generation college and law student. I became interested in immigration through my own personal experience. Growing up in Southern Arizona, I realized how the law can impact one’s experience in the world. Recognizing the social inequalities perpetuated by immigration law has inspired me to pursue a legal career and to dedicate my time to serving marginalized communities.”
Milca Altamirano (’23) primarily spent time during her clerkship handling a I-360, I-485, and I-765 applications for one client from start to finish. This is for protection from removal under the Violence Against Women Act (for undocumented spouses of abusive U.S. Citizens or Legal Permanent Residents), with a work permit, and with an application for adjustment to Legal Permanent Resident filed at the same time. She did the client interviews, obtained the necessary evidence, completed and prepared forms for final review by SALA staff, and drafted up the client’s declaration. Milca also worked up a declaration for a U visa for SALA’s lead immigration attorney, using her Spanish and English skills.
SALS staff stated that Milca “was very compassionate and attentive with clients. She would develop rapport with them, and she would do a good job explaining forms to them. Milca exhibited excellent issue-spotting and an understanding of the immigration law and the required necessary forms. This will help her with immigration law practice in the future should she want to continue with it.”
“My experience at SALA was invaluable. I was able to strengthen my client-related skills while under the supervision of an experienced and passionate attorney and accredited representative. I learned how to gather relevant client information to fil out applications on their behalf. I was able to see concepts I learned in my immigration law classes in a more detailed way. In other words, my experience at SALA helped me understand the intricacies of immigration law and apply my knowledge to the case at hand. Most importantly, my experience solidified and reinforced my desire and commitment to serve marginalized communities regardless of what area of law I practice. I learned that this type of work matters because an attorney could change someone’s life for the better.”
The David A. Paige Foundation has committed to funding a full-time summer clerkship at SALA in 2023.
“Like Mr. Paige, I also hail from the west side of Phoenix and have been transformed by my experiences in Tucson. I share his commitment to bridging the justice gap for vulnerable populations in our community. As a first-generation law student, I pursued a legal education specifically with the intent to work alongside an organization like SALA. I believe in the dignity of all people and that they deserve quality legal representation, regardless of their socioeconomic status”
Paige completed ten weeks of her legal clerkship at Southern Arizona Legal Aid, Inc. in the summer of ‘21. Paige immediately went to work with the immigration unit, assisting them in preparing U-visa and VAWA petitions, preparing packets to renew work authorization permits, meeting with clients, helping clients write statements to support their petitions, and researching unusual immigration issues. Paige also was given an entire VAWA application, gathering documents/evidence, meeting with the client, helping her draft a statement in support of the petition, and completing the USCIS forms.
“I really enjoyed my time at SALA and would seriously consider working here post-graduation. I see how rewarding it is to help people who need it most and give back to the community.” Staff attorney, Mary Day, oversaw Paige’s work and said that “Paige completed complicated research and a writing project to revisit a previous USCIS decision for a client that the immigration unit simply would not have been able to take on due to the hours it required. Paige brought her intelligence and compassion to all the work she did for the immigration unit this summer. It was a pleasure to have an intern who was so willing to learn and to work.”