Amelia Ruiz Fischer is an Equal Justice Works Fellow at Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP). She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin, where she majored in Latin American Studies and Plan II Honors and volunteered in the litigation against the T. Don Hutto Immigrant Detention Center in 2007. Before heading to law school, Amelia worked at American Gateways, formerly the Political Asylum Project of Austin, as the case manager for the Program Representing Immigrant Survivors of Abuse, preparing and submitting clients’ Violence Against Women Act applications. She graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in May of 2012, where she was involved in the law school’s Immigration Clinic, held leadership positions in the Domestic Violence Survivors Support Network and Street Law, served on the Student Advisory Board of the William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law, was a Public Service Scholar, and received the Justice Center Graduating Student Award. Amelia is also my best friend of 16 years
Lauren: Why did you decide to become an immigration and civil rights attorney?
Amelia: When I was 6 years old, my dad came home from work one night and I noticed he was crying. I followed him into his room and asked him what was wrong, and he told me that he had lost a case, and that a nice man was going to be deported and separated from his children. I decided that night that I was going to be a lawyer to help people the way that my dad helps. Every experience I have had since then serving the immigrant community and learning about immigration law has only served to push me in the same direction. I feel a strong calling to help the indigent immigrant community, and this is the best way I've found to do that.
Lauren: Other than your dad, who is someone that you look up to?
Amelia: I like Judge Justice because he had the courage to make incredibly unpopular rulings, sometimes putting his life at risk, because they were the right thing to do. He led school desegregation in Texas, prison reform, and helped the undocumented immigrant population in Texas find justice where there was little hope of it in many ways.
Lauren: What made you decide to apply for a fellowship with Texas Civil Right Project?
Amelia: I thought TCRP provided the best place for me to work in Austin. It focuses on civil rights litigation, and my project is right at the intersect of civil rights and immigration law. TCRP also has a long history of helping underserved, vulnerable, indigent populations, including immigrants, so it just made sense.
Lauren: Tell us about your project.
Amelia: Well, Secure Communities (SComm) is a federal program that creates a partnership between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local police. SComm is one of the most serious threats immigrants face today. SComm unjustifiably deports thousands of immigrant victims of domestic violence and crime, causes the immigrant community to distrust police officers, and leads to widespread civil rights violations such as police brutality, racial profiling, and wrongful arrest. My project counteracts the harm SComm has had on the immigrant community. I will use direct representation in civil rights litigation and immigration proceedings, along with community organizing and advocacy, to fight SComm and stop undeserved deportations. I am also heading TCRP’s DACA Project where I organize clinics to assist undocumented young people with their applications for immigration relief.
Lauren: On February 22, 2013 you attended an immigration reform rally at the capitol. Tell me a little bit about that.
Amelia: The march was hosted by the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, but it was Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance's statewide march. There were immigrants rights organizations there from El Paso, Dallas, Irving, Arlington, San Antonio, Brownsville, Alamo, Houston---all over the place! The purpose of the march was to demand humane comprehensive immigration reform that focuses less on harsh enforcement tactics that violate people's civil rights and more on a balanced approach to enforcement that takes into account the great contributions that immigrants make to our society. It was about human dignity for all, regardless of immigration status.
Below are some pictures Amelia took at the march.
If you or someone you know has been victimized by secure communities please have them contact Amelia Ruiz Fischer (ella se habla espanol)