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University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law - Summer 2014

Alumni News PACI F I C L AW 45 S T E V E Y E AT E R DEFENDING IMMIGRANTS’ RIGHTS Raissa Morris, ’12, advocates on behalf of foreign-born victims of domestic violence By Joanna Corman At the age of 9, Raissa Morris, ’12, and her mother fled their hometown of Cartagena, Colombia. They went to Bogota, fleeing her father, who physically abused Morris’ mother. One of the best criminal defense attorneys in the country helped Morris’ mother get custody of Morris, and the pair settled in San Antonio. The experience inspired Morris to become an immigration attorney. She recently started her own firm, Morris & López, PC, after working more than a year as an immigration law associate at Considine Sorensen & Trujillo in Sacramento. She chose to study at Pacific McGeorge, she says, because “I wanted an active role in changing the way things are today in this nation, especially regarding protections given women suffering from domestic violence.” But it was not until she took Professor Raquel Aldana’s immigration law class at Pacific McGeorge that she knew for certain that she wanted to work for immigrants’ rights. “I’m an immigrant and I didn’t realize how hard it was for many of us to achieve our goals and dreams in the U.S.,” Morris says. After taking Aldana’s class, Morris became her research assistant, and then spent the following summer working with Kids in Need of Defense, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that assists unaccompanied minors who come to the United States in search of refuge. The job cemented her desire to work with immigrants. In 2011, Morris worked in Pacific McGeorge’s immigration clinic, which led her to discover how immigration law and domestic violence intersect. She started giving workshops to victims of domestic violence in the community to teach them about their rights. Morris won the clinic’s first asylum case, in San Francisco Immigration Court, where she represented a minor who left Guatemala because she feared her partner would kill her. In January 2012, Morris started volunteering with her current firm and then was hired as a paralegal. After she passed the bar, she was promoted to associate attorney. Today, most of her clients are from Mexico; some leave because of domestic violence, sexual assault or political persecution, while others are straightforward citizenship cases. Morris also volunteers at Pacific McGeorge’s immigration clinic, on the school’s Public Legal Services Society’s alumni board and in the community, speaking at the Mexican Consulate, the UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic and on the Univisión television network. Being a domestic violence victim in search of asylum is an unsettled area of immigration law, Morris says, which makes the cases she handles hard to win but immensely gratifying. “It is rewarding to help somebody start a new life,” she says. “Also, I can help a woman who is a victim of domestic violence empower herself and come out of that dark hole.”


University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law - Summer 2014
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