“I really wanted to go into a major that would help me build up on the skills and the passions that I already had, and I really saw how the BA in Law could provide that for me,” said 2022 BA in Law grad Alejandra Encinas Garcia.
Before declaring her major, Encinas had a background in social justice and organizing, having spent time working for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Tucson, a nonprofit that provides legal services to refugees, asylees and other immigrants.
“A lot of times what happens with community organizers is we have the passion and drive, but we might not have that institutional knowledge that ultimately allows us to advocate for people more effectively,” says Encinas Garcia. “I was also really interested in the possibility of simply having a better understanding of the laws that affect my community.”
Originally from Hermosillo, Sonora in Mexico, Encinas Garcia began the BA in Law program with the idea that law school might be her next step. She envisioned a future helping migrant families and thought the best way that she could do that would be by becoming an immigration lawyer.
Then Encinas Garcia joined the Interpretation and Translation Internship, where BA in Law students provide interpretation and translation to clients in the Workers' Rights Clinic, while learning about the law, legal professions, and how to work as part of a legal team.
“We were the bridge between JD students and the clients. Yes, it was translating and interpreting, but it was also being a cultural bridge,” says Encinas Garcia. “As a migrant, I felt like I could empathize with a lot of clients and with some of the barriers that they would face.”
She knew her work as an interpretation and translation intern was valued and important, having seen firsthand from her time at the IRC how lack of resources in immigration court affects thousands of people.
“At the end of day, if there is a disconnect between the people who are making the laws and the people who are being affected by the laws then something as simple as being able to provide quality interpretation and translation services is important,” she added.
Encinas Garcia says her experience as an intern was a turning point for her future, as it made her recognize that law school was not the only path to a career in the legal profession.
“I realized that I did not need to go to law school to do legal work. There are other things that you can do within the field that aren’t being a lawyer,” says Encinas Garcia. “There are many things that you can do that are just as helpful, just as valid, just as rewarding.”
The time she spent with University of Arizona Law JD students was also valuable to her, as it made her see that law school was an attainable goal.
“As a first-generation student I had no idea what law school was. I just had this idea from the media of what law school is and what a law student looks like,” says Encinas Garcia. “So, seeing JD students who went through the same experiences as me, people who look like me, sound like me, it was important to me. It helped me understand that I can do it too and it is not some impossible goal.”
After graduation, Encinas Garcia will study abroad in Spain and then will return to work towards a certificate for legal translation and interpretation that is offered through the University of Arizona.
“With the knowledge I already have in law and the certificate, then I can create my own service to help people obtain translation and interpretation at an affordable price, which is something that is currently very inaccessible and expensive in Tucson,” says Encinas Garcia. “In my experience, it was a huge barrier that clients were facing when applying for immigration benefits and I want to be able to help, especially migrant families.”
Her advice for future BA in Law students is to always talk to your professors, something she wishes she did sooner during her undergraduate years and to always keep an open mind.
“Let professors know when you are struggling, and you need help. Faculty want to see students succeed; they want us to thrive. So, keep those lines of communication open,” said Encinas Garcia. “Keep your mind open while exploring all of the different classes, resources and opportunities available in the program because you may come in thinking you want to do one thing and then change your mind.”
Encinas Garcia hopes her fellow BA in Law grads take a moment before moving on to the next step to truly feel proud of themselves, having all faced unprecedented challenges during their time at the University of Arizona.
“There was no way that any of us could have been prepared for what we were going to face,” says Encinas Garcia. “Especially for migrant and first-generation students graduating with a BA in Law, who unfortunately, came into a field that is not as diverse. I hope that we are able to recognize that what we did was not easy. We truly have a motive to celebrate, be proud of ourselves, our community and the support that we have shown each other. Being the first person in your family to walk across a higher education graduation stage is huge. I hope we can see that it is an amazing accomplishment, so it is ok to take a step back to take a breath, enjoy and rejoice on everything we have achieved.”