Class of 2023
Recipient of the Equal Justice Works Design-Your-Own Fellowship
“My name is Danicole Ramos, and I am the child of immigrants from the Philippines. My great grandfather served in the US military during WWII when the Philippines was a US territory. In the 1970s, my father immigrated to Hawai’i with my grandfather, who came to work at the Waialua Sugar Mill on the North Shore. I was born and grew up in Waialua. After earning my bachelor’s degree in business and my master’s degree in public administration on the Mainland, I returned to the North Shore. While I was a law student at Richardson, I worked as a staffer for the representative from the North Shore, handling constituent concerns and organizing stakeholder meetings to address community concerns. I love the North Shore.
After graduating from Richardson, I will be working as an immigration attorney at my host organization, the RILC, where I will be representing and conducting outreach to immigrant veterans, through the Equal Justice Works Fellowship. I applied for the Equal Justice Works Design-Your-Own Fellowship because I wanted to serve immigrants similar to my own family and community members in the place that raised me. I saw an unmet need for immigration legal services for immigrant veterans in Hawai’i. In Hawai’i, many of our immigrant veterans come from the Filipino, COFA, and Pacific Islander communities. As a member of the Air National Guard, I thought it was unjust when I saw noncitizen veterans serve our country, but not receive the citizenship they are entitled to by their service, simply because they did not have access to counsel to guide them through complex immigration legal processes. Through my work with immigrants in law school, I saw how some of these veterans, who were longtime residents of Hawai’i, even ended up in deportation proceedings, something which could have been avoided by naturalizing earlier.
My experience with the RILC while in law school greatly influenced my decision to enter immigration law and to apply for the EJW Fellowship. I gained hands-on experience and confidence working with a client, preparing a case, and representing a client in Immigration Court. Importantly, RILC Director and Professor Esther Yoo worked with me to nurture my ideas for the fellowship, to shape a compelling proposal, and to agree to act as my supervisor and have RILC be my host organization.
I advise current and future law students to remember this: ‘Progress not perfection.’ Legal culture can sometimes feel designed to put more emphasis on perfection. My experiences have shown me that striving for progress each day is the better approach.”
Class of 2023
Recipient of the Immigrant Justice Corps Fellowship
“My name is Kenneth Tea, and I am the son of Cambodian Refugees. Both of my parents came to the US, via refugee camps in Thailand, in the 1980s after having survived the brutal Khmer Rouge genocide. I grew up in Chino, CA surrounded by a diverse immigrant community, which taught me the importance of hard work and working to better one’s community.
I completed my BA in African & African-American Studies at Stanford University. I subsequently worked as a case manager with homeless and mentally ill adults in the San Francisco Bay Area for a few years before coming to law school at Richardson. I speak Spanish, Arabic, and Khmer at an advanced level of proficiency, and have some conversational ability in other languages including French, Portuguese, and Mandarin Chinese.
I applied for the Immigrant Justice Corps fellowship because I am interested in using my legal training in order to help people who lived through events similar to those experienced by my family. After graduating from Richardson, I will be working as an attorney at Immigrant Defenders in Los Angeles, where I will be representing unaccompanied children, through the IJC fellowship. As someone who has experience working with people who have experienced significant trauma as well as my own personal interest in foreign languages, I felt like immigration law would be the perfect area for me to use my skills to give back to those in need.
My experience with the RILC impacted my decision to practice immigration law because it provided me with both mentorship and experience working on real cases. I benefitted immensely from the mentorship provided by the current and former RILC Directors Esther Yoo and John Egan ’00; RILC Law Fellow Ethan Higa ’21; and Gregory Kim, another attorney with whom I have worked on a pro bono asylum case.
For future and current law students, my recommendation is to always follow your passions and stay true to yourself. Pursue experiences which are meaningful to you so that you can use the privilege and access provided by your legal education in order to make a positive impact on the world around you.”
Class of 2023
Accepted into the US Department of Justice
Attorney General’s Honors Program
“My name is Kyla Livingston and I grew up in a small, tight-knit community on the Big Island. I have been accepted into the U.S. Department of Justice Attorney General’s Honors Program. I will be working as a law clerk in the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge in New York City. In that role, I will have the opportunity to do a lot of research and writing, observe a variety of hearings, and absorb the knowledge and expertise of the judges and attorneys.
I applied for the Honors Program after chatting with Kara Teng ’17 about her experience in the program at the San Francisco Immigration Court. She said the experience immersed her in immigration law and allowed her to see the system from the Court’s perspective. I was also intrigued by the opportunity to work in an immigration court in a metropolitan city like New York City. I knew that it would enrich my knowledge in a way that would be of great value, either back here in Honolulu or in my hometown on the Big Island, where we have such a great need for immigration attorneys.
I took two semesters of the Immigration Clinic course. I was fortunate enough to appear twice in Immigration Court. It opened my eyes to how important it is for every individual to be represented in Immigration Court. My time with the RILC was a great introduction to this area of law and to working directly with clients. You really get the full spectrum of experiences in the clinic, from conducting intakes, to performing legal research and writing, to practicing trauma-informed advocacy, to preparing for and appearing in court.
I encourage current and future law students to take the Immigration Clinic course even if you don’t feel particularly called to this area of law. It truly is the best way to see a case from beginning to end, and to see the impact your work has on individuals and families in this community who are so deserving of legal assistance.”
Law Office of Carmen DiAmore-Siah
Under former RILC Director John Egan’s guidance, my classmates and I prepared various cases from start to finish. We interviewed clients and witnesses, conducted factual investigations, researched and developed legal arguments, prepared immigrant petitions and legal briefs, drafted filings and motions, and represented immigrants at master and individual hearings at the immigration court.
These practical, hands on experiences were invaluable for me—I got to give back to my community while sharpening my lawyering skills and problem-solving actual practice issues.”
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA)
“It’s no exaggeration to say that I went to Richardson to join the immigration clinic. Our clients were seeking various forms of immigration relief, immersing us in the complexity of immigration law. We conducted interviews, did legal research, wrote briefs, filled out applications and appeared in front of Honolulu’s two immigration judges on behalf of our clients. It was exhilarating and humbling.
So why did I want to join this clinic before I even started law school? I had previously worked as an immigrant rights advocate and met many attorneys that I admired. Given the incredible pressure that the immigrant community is currently under, exacerbated by policies and the COVID-19 pandemic, I became more convinced than ever that I needed to return to my calling.
I was fortunate enough to return to my old employer, now as a policy counsel leading our federal policy work and shoring up our participation in litigation efforts. The work that I do with both my organization’s other attorneys and with those of our allies would be impossible without the skills and knowledge I gained from former RILC Director John Egan and my peers in the clinic. For this, I remain forever grateful to Richardson.”