This past fall, Liliana Zaragoza ’13 was awarded a Skadden Fellowship, one of the most prestigious honors bestowed on recent law school graduates looking to embark on careers in public interest law. The award, which includes two years of funding for Zaragoza to pursue public interest work, will also allow her to fulfill a long-held dream of advocating on behalf of immigrant populations.
After studying human rights issues as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, Zaragoza enrolled at the Law School to broaden her understanding of the legal dimensions that permeate the field. In New York City, she quickly became involved with the New York Immigration Coalition and LatinoJustice PRLDEF, where she represented day laborers and restaurant workers in employment cases. Zaragoza also served as director of the Law School’s Society for Immigrant and Refugee Rights—a student-run organization that works to promote a dialogue on the rights of refugees and immigrants.
During the fall of her second year, Zaragoza participated in the Law School’s Immigration Defense Externship, a program that affords students the opportunity to work alongside attorneys from The Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit in representing immigrants facing deportation. That experience further solidified Zaragoza’s desire to pursue a career in immigration law and advocacy.
After graduation, Zaragoza, who served as editor-in-chief of the Columbia Law Review during her third year, will begin a two-year position with the New York Legal Assistance Group as part of the Skadden Fellowship program. She will spearhead outreach efforts to the thousands of domestic workers in New York City and educate housecleaners and caretakers—many of whom are women born outside the U.S.—about their rights under the state’s Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights.
“Part of the problem is issues are kept private,” she adds, noting that many domestic workers are employed directly by families and paid under the table. “These people are hidden in the shadows.”
Zaragoza is thrilled about the opportunity to assist a population in need of legal advice, and one about which she cares deeply.
“It feels really great to know I’ll be doing work I love,” she says.