Out of the Shadows
Forbes 30 under 30 lawyer Lauren Burke '06 is on a six-month van trip across the country to provide legal on-demand services to immigrants. Portraits by Miles Ladin '90.T
here are 11.4 million unauthorized immigrants estimated to be living in the United States. Martina Carrillo once belonged to this group. That is, until she was the victim of a hate crime.
The racially charged crime took place when Carrillo was in middle school. A female classmate who routinely bullied Carrillo because of her Mexican heritage beat her to the point that she nearly lost consciousness.
“I was on the ground when one big guy stepped in,” says Carrillo, who in 2000, aged 7, crossed the border from Mexico to the U.S. with her mother and two siblings.
“If it wasn’t for the guy who helped, I don’t know what might have happened to me.”
The trauma hardened Carrillo’s resolve, and she assisted local law enforcement in prosecuting her attacker, who eventually pled guilty and went to juvenile detention.
Carrillo continued through high school undocumented, destined like millions of other undocumented immigrants to a life of unemployment or underemployment, lack of adequate health care and living with the constant fear of deportation.
“Growing up, I never felt welcome. I often felt like I was alone.”
Then a high school counselor referred her to immigration lawyer Lauren Burke '06. Burke helped Carrillo apply for an obscure visa set aside for victims of certain crimes (and their immediate family members) who have suffered mental or physical abuse but are willing to help in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. The U-Visa.
“In 2012, my mom, one of my siblings who crossed the border with us and I were granted our U-Visa. Then in 2016, we applied for our permanent resident status. One year later, one by one, we received our green cards. Now, we are counting down the days to becoming U.S. citizens.”