Immigration Law Associate at Considine, Sorensen & Trujillo
Area of Practice: Immigration Law
Year Graduated: 2012
At the age of 9, Raissa Morris, '12, and her mother fled her hometown of Cartagena, Colombia. They went to Bogota, running away from her father, a lawyer who physically abused his wife, Morris' mother.
One of the best criminal defense attorneys in the country helped Morris' mother pro bono to get custody of Morris. Then the pair left and eventually settled in San Antonio, Tex. There, Morris' mother volunteered with the San Antonio Police Department's domestic violence program. Morris volunteered as a babysitter, watching the women's children when they had meetings.
The experience eventually inspired Morris, an immigration law associate at Considine Sorensen & Trujillo in Sacramento, to become an immigration attorney. She tried accounting for a year, using her undergraduate business degree, but wasn't passionate about it. It was then that she decided on a public-interest career.
Morris chose law, she says, because "I wanted a more active role in changing the way things are today in this nation, the protections they give women who are suffering from this violent crime (of domestic violence)." Morris didn't know what kind of law she would practice until she took Prof. Raquel Aldana's immigration law class at Pacific McGeorge School of Law, eventually earning a certificate in international legal studies.
"I'm an immigrant and I didn't realize how hard it was for so many of us to achieve our goals and dreams in the U.S.," she says.
After taking Aldana's class, Morris became her research assistant. That summer she worked with a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, Kids in Need of Defense, which works with unaccompanied minors who come to the U.S. in search of refuge. The job cemented her desire to work with immigrants.
In 2011, Morris worked in McGeorge's immigration clinic for both semesters. Working in the clinic 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 their immigration rights. Morris won the clinic's first asylum case, which she argued in San Francisco Immigration Court. She represented a minor who left Guatemala because she feared her partner would kill her.
Being a domestic violence victim in search of asylum is an unsettled area of immigration law, Morris says, which makes these cases hard to win. 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.
Most of Morris' clients are from Mexico. Whatever their home country, some leave because of domestic violence, sexual assault or political persecution. Some are straightforward citizenship cases. Morris volunteers at 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.
"I find rewarding that I can help somebody start a new life here and make their dreams become true," she says. "That's what I enjoy the most. Also, I can help a woman who is a victim of domestic violence empower herself and come out of that dark hole."