Susana Sandoval Vargas ’19 Named as a 2019 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Susana Sandoval Vargas, a May 2019 graduate of Chicago-Kent College of Law, has been selected as a 2019 Equal Justice Works fellow. During her two-year fellowship, Sandoval Vargas will defend low-wage immigrant women workers against wage theft and other abuses by advocating for them in court and by presenting bilingual know-your-rights educational sessions. Her fellowship is hosted by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and is sponsored by Discover Financial Services and the law firm of Winston & Strawn LLP.
According to the United States Census Bureau, there are more than 3 million low-wage immigrant Latina workers. Lack of formal education and fears of retaliation and deportation leave these women vulnerable to illegal employment practices.
“Through the fellowship, I hope to fill a gap in services,” says Sandoval Vargas. “While creating this program, I mean to help immigrant women, empower them to face the abuses that they are enduring at work day-to-day such as sexual assault, trafficking, wage theft, and unsafe work conditions.”
Sandoval Vargas will combat unlawful employment practices by representing women directly, by bringing high-impact litigation cases to court to challenge broad-based employment abuses, and by giving bilingual presentations on workers' rights for employees in the service and manufacturing industries, for employers, and for community groups.
“I myself am an immigrant,” she says. “I'm a DACA recipient, so throughout my whole entire life I've known the struggles of being an immigrant.”
Born in Mexico City, Sandoval Vargas moved to Chicago at age 2 and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2010 with a B.A. in political science and Spanish. In 2012, she joined Mil Mujeres—a nonprofit organization that provides immigration legal services to low-income immigrants and their families—as their deputy director.
“I started working at a nonprofit that provides legal services to immigrant women, and there I realized that their hardships were far worse than what I've experienced, so I decided to dedicate my career to helping immigrant women,” says Sandoval Vargas.
She continued working at Mil Mujeres after enrolling in Chicago-Kent in 2016, eventually serving as one of the organization’s national directors from January 2017 to May 2018. In summer 2019, she was a Public Interest Law Initiative fellow at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, performing investigations and preparing legal memoranda.
At Chicago-Kent, Sandoval Vargas earned certificates in Public Interest Law and in Labor and Alternative Dispute Resolution and received CALI Awards for achieving the highest grades in her Legal Writing I, Legal Writing IV, and Trial Advocacy classes. She also completed a legal externship with United States District Court Judge Thomas M. Durkin through the law school's Judicial Externship Program and worked in the C-K Law Group’s Plaintiffs Employment Clinic and Mediation Clinic. Along with her teammates Gabriel Lara ’20 and Adan Ramirez ’19, she won the second-place petitioner’s brief award at the 2019 Uvaldo Herrera National Moot Court Competition, sponsored by the Hispanic National Bar Association.
After completing the fellowship, Sandoval Vargas wants to continue advocating for immigrants. “My career goals could take me on different paths, but what I do know is that I want to continue helping the immigrant community protect their civil rights.”