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CWSL Alum Reveals How Political Asylum Changed His Life

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“Being granted political asylum changed our lives.”

Sergio Copete knew from a young age that he wanted to be an attorney. He came from a family of attorneys—his mother and father are attorneys as was his grandfather, uncle and other family members.

Copete was born in Bogota, Colombia. At the age of 12, he and his family had to leave Colombia following death threats against his father from the Colombian guerrillas. The Copetes moved to Orange County to stay with a family member.

“Initially my parents sought to escape the dangerous conditions we were experiencing in Colombia and expected to go back after the danger had passed,” recalls Copete. “However, it became apparent that the conditions were not improving and only getting worse.”

Copete’s father studied the immigration code and realized that he and his family met the criteria for asylum. Within the first year of entry into the United States, the family presented the case before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The whole process had a profound effect on the young Copete.

“I remember seeing my parents deal with the asylum paperwork and prepare for their interview with USCIS,” he says. “I even remember going to the interview and sitting in the lobby waiting for my parents to come outside.”

Copete’s family was granted asylum, and over the years Sergio listened to his family discuss legal issues and topics.

“I decided to study political science and then apply to law school close to Orange County,” says Copete. “California Western was a perfect choice, only a little over an hour away from home and with a great bar passing rate.”

Copete graduated from California Western in 2012 and knew in his heart that he wanted to open his own practice. His background made all immigration matters and asylum cases a natural specialty for him.

“Going to interviews with my clients takes me back to the time that I went with my parents to our asylum interview. But now I understand it from the legal perspective,” he says.

Today, the Copete Law Firm has expanded to handle criminal defense cases and civil litigation cases, but immigration law remains close to Sergio Copete’s heart.

“Immigration law really speaks to me as a first-generation immigrant,” he says. “I have been through the process with my family, and I know how tough it can be.”

Copete recalls his time at California Western with fondness. He loved studying in San Diego, and the downtown location enabled him to strike a healthy work-life balance.

“My favorite class was Trial Practice with Professor Conte,” recalls Copete. “I didn’t want to take it, but my friend suggested that it would be good to take so I signed up. Best decision of my life,” he adds. “The class was tough, but it was very rewarding, and gave me the building blocks that I needed to become an effective litigator.”

Certainly, being granted political asylum changed Sergio Copete’s life and with the full support of the United States, he has been able to work hard and follow his dreams.

“I am happy I went to law school and became an attorney, even though it required a lot of work and dedication,” says Copete. “I’m grateful to California Western for providing me with an outstanding legal education and for preparing me so well to pass the State Bar exam.”