Semi-Annual Scholarship (2H 2019) Essay Winner

It is with great pride that we declare Karla M. Davis as the winner of the 2019 2H Scholarship Contest. In addition to her law studies at the University of Washington School of Law, Karla has been actively involved in promoting immigrant rights through internships with Advocates Abroad, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. Be sure to check out her extraordinary essay about why she is studying immigration law.
Congratulations, Karla!

Question: Are you interested in studying immigration law? Why/Why not?

As a first-generation immigrant and daughter of a single mother, I have had many experiences that have affirmed my commitment to immigrant communities and other communities of color. I know first-hand what it is like to be marginalized as a result of the law and I have made it my life’s mission to learn about how the law can be a tool for liberation instead of oppression. I was born in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico and immigrated to the United States with my older sister and mother at five years old. I lived in the United States for 13 years as an undocumented immigrant. My family and I feared deportation every day. We still do; as my mother remains undocumented. In May of 2016, at the age of 23, I became a United States Citizen. But, the pathway to citizenship, as is the story with so many, was not an easy one.

I was raised in Los Angeles and then in a suburb of Kansas City. I was witness to the constant sacrifices my mother made to support and encourage my sister and me. In order to fulfill our family’s “American Dream,” my mother has been a housekeeper, cosmetologist, and fast-food employee. She has scrubbed toilets and mopped floors so that my sister and I do not have to do the same. When I was 15, I met a woman by the name of Tabitha Davis who became my mentor and who adopted me and became my second mother. It was through her that I was able to apply for legal permanent residence in the United States. I am immensely proud of having two moms who are women of color and who have faced the adversities that life throws at them with kindness and resilience. Ours is a world that still fears the success of women of color and seeks to suppress it at all costs.

Despite the odds stacked against an undocumented immigrant kid pre-DACA, I was fortunate to attend college where I was initially focused on taking classes in Corporate Communication, Marketing, and Graphic Design. I wasn’t particularly passionate about any of these fields, but at the time I believed Corporate America was the pathway to success. I was wrong. I blame the internalized racism and capitalism of white supremacy for these notions I had within me.

It was not until I took a Social Justice 101 course that my definition of success was challenged. Having experienced the weight of being unable to change my immigration status for years, I wanted answers. How is it that the law can play with people’s lives in such a way? I have not found all the answers, but I have awoken to the reality of institutionalized injustice. Thus, I have made a commitment to use the privilege of education; the privilege of a law degree, to aid collective liberation movements. I want to be of service to those who, like me, have felt oppressed by the law and societal stereotypes. This is why I became a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) Accredited Representative prior to law school. Working with survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse as well as with fellow immigrants affirmed my desire to seek a law degree.

As I prepare to enter my last year of law school, I am more committed than ever to an alternative use of the law. An approach that seeks to include the people who actually experience the effects of legal institutions; an approach that wants to amplify the circumstances of those “othered” by individuals and institutions in power. Those in power still take demands for equity as a threat to their own hold on capitalism and racism and will do what is possible to prevent redistribution of wealth and power. In this fight, I hope to provide my legal knowledge for the benefit of those working against these destructive forces.

I just returned from an opportunity to spend my 2L summer volunteering with refugees in Greece. There is such need to provide effective and culturally appropriate legal aid. That is why I am thankful for scholarships that emphasize the lives of immigrants. I am currently experiencing extreme financial need and would appreciate being considered for your scholarship. I am supporting my undocumented mother as she is unable to find work. My living expenses are becoming more limited by the day. As well, I am growing worried about my ability to pay for a bar preparation course and to support myself and my mother while I am studying for the bar, which I hope to begin studying for in a few short months. This scholarship would ease the burden of paying for education related expenses.

Thank you for providing an opportunity for underrepresented students to tell their story via this immigration scholarship. I would very much like to be considered. Enclosed, please find the rest of my application materials.