Taking a Stand for Embattled Immigrants

USF’s Nina Torres sees herself as human rights advocate

By SURYAA RANGARAJAN, OFFICE OF MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS Posted Mon, 12/12/2016 - 10:39

In college, Nina Torres MA ’16 grew increasingly worried as she listened to friends’ stories about immigration raids taking place around Los Angeles, where she grew up. When she asked around, she realized that no one in her community understood immigration law or what rights deportees and their families had. It infuriated her. Wanting to help, she started studying political science and obsessing over immigration law.

The first-generation college student signed up for a two-year stint helping attorneys organize legal clinics and prepare immigration trial binders, as well as participating in protest rallies at the National Immigration Law Center. Later, she volunteered at the Coalition of Humane Immigrant Rights in support of the DREAM Act, legislation that would make the road to a quality education and citizenship easier for undocumented minors.

“Know your rights”

Four years into her advocacy work, Torres wanted an advanced degree for the added expertise it would give her. She enrolled in the only graduate program of its kind in the U.S. — USF’s Human Rights Education program. Torres was drawn by the program’s focus on social justice and wanted to study what that meant in terms of immigration, displacement, and human rights.

At USF, Torres continued her tireless advocacy, working at San Francisco’s Larkin Street Youth Services. There, she tutored at-risk and homeless young people for the GED exam, taught job interview skills, and started a discussion group to raise awareness about human rights issues related to education, class, race, and gender.

After graduating in May 2016, Torres got a full-time gig as a coordinator at the National Immigration Law Center, which defends the rights of low-income immigrants and their families.

“My ultimate goal is to create and host a series of 'know your rights' immigration workshops at legal clinics in California,” says Torres. “I want people to know they don’t have to live in fear and that they do have rights, no matter their immigration status.”

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