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Alumna Holds the Line at the Vanguard of Refugee Crisis

Kate Clark

“We admire how she is driven to be involved in very concrete ways to create real change in individual lives.”

The preceding statement is one of the reasons San Diego City Beat named Kate Clark ’10 as one of their People of the Year for 2018.

“Clark’s strong leadership role on immigration issues, DACA support, and the fallout from increased immigration enforcement is inspiring,” the citation continues.

Humbled by the honor, Clark acknowledges she is only doing what she loves—ensuring no one in her community stands alone. “Each day I have one goal … hold the line,” Clark told City Beat.

Clark always knew she wanted to pursue law that had an international focus. This was one of the motivations that drew her to California Western. “I chose California Western because of its strong reputation in the San Diego legal community” states Clark. In addition, Cal Western offered robust course options in International Law.”

One class, in particular, within the International Law discipline sparked her interest—immigration law taught by Adjunct Prof. Lilia Velasquez.

“Prof. Velasquez’s passion combined with my interest in working with people from around the world, convinced me to become an immigration attorney,” says Clark.

Subsequently, Clark gained experience on all sides of the immigration spectrum as an intern at Casa Cornelia Law Center, the Department of Homeland Security, and as a clerk for the San Diego Immigration Court.

Today, Clark is Director of Immigration Services at Jewish Family Service and also sits on the Steering Committee for the San Diego Rapid Response Network (SDRRN), a coalition of human rights and service organizations, attorneys, and community leaders dedicated to aiding immigrants and their families in the San Diego border region.

With San Diego being the largest land border crossing in the world, together with the increase of Central American refugees and renewed immigration enforcement, Clark’s work has taken on a new intensity.

“My colleagues and I knew that in order to ensure no one in our community stands alone, we had to come together in partnership to stand up for our immigrant community members,” States Clark.

Under Clark, the immigration program at Jewish Family Service has grown into a strong department which includes three California Western alumni—Senior Immigration Attorney Leah Chavarria ’13, Supervising Immigration Attorney Luis Gonzalez ‘16, and Pro Bono Litigation Coordinator Vanessa Dojaquez-Torres ’15. “We have a great immigration legal team of CWSL grads which enables us to support families in San Diego more effectively,” acknowledges Clark.

After just over a year, the SDRRN, through its 24-hour volunteer-operated hotline, has been instrumental in responding to countless families subject to increased immigration enforcement and family separation concerns. More recently the SDRRN began operating an emergency migrant shelter at the border for families being released from government custody.

“Each day I go to work I see our community members, family, friends, students, and colleagues experience a fear of being separated from their family at any moment,” explains Clark. “And as a new mom, it’s a fear that I can hardly imagine.”

Despite the intensity of her work Clark still finds time to be very involved with California Western and works alongside Profs. Aceves and Thyfault as a coach on the Jessup International Law Moot Court team. She is also involved with Prof. Conte in coordinating the Appellate Moot Court team.

“Seeing the growth the CWSL students go through in the Jessup and the Appellate Programs is phenomenal,” she says.

Clark’s advice to aspiring Cal Western students is to find their passion in a particular area of the law just like she did. “Expose yourself to as many different topics as possible and learn to find comfort in uncomfortable situations.”

Clark reveals that SDRRN’s shelter has served more than 5,000 individuals and will remain open for as long as it is needed.

“I will proudly continue to be part of this effort.”