Monica Macias has become Michigan State University College of Law’s latest Skadden Fellow, the third to hail from MSU Law in the last five years.
She will work for two years as a fully funded public interest attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, advocating for the civil rights of immigrant children and families harmed by the Flint water crisis.
“This is a real credit to Monica, who has risen to the top in a very competitive process,” said Larry Ponoroff, dean of Michigan State University College of Law. “Our community is inspired by her vision and her commitment to serving justice. I am certain that she will do an outstanding job in a wonderful program.”
Macias grew up as an undocumented immigrant and her experiences living outside the legal system inspired her to pursue a career in public interest work. She obtained legal status while in college and became a U.S. citizen in 2016.
As the Flint story unfolded, Macias saw a new set of needs emerge for immigrant communities in the affected area.
“Immigrant families need legal support to obtain access to long-term healthcare and for children who drank the toxic water,” Macias said. “In the case of immigrants in the Flint area, fear of deportation kept them from seeking bottled water from water distribution centers and the lack of Spanish-language public health information further compounded the problem by creating an information blackout for non-English speakers.”
In response, Macias’ action plan includes direct outreach to immigrants, a “know your rights” campaign, strategic litigation and using external communication to highlight the problems faced by the immigrant community.
Macias is one of 30 third-year law students and recent graduates from across the nation who will devote the next two years to public interest work. The highly-selective Skadden Fellowship Program, which has been described as “a legal Peace Corps,” provides funding for graduating law students who wish to devote their professional lives to providing legal services to the disadvantaged, the elderly, the homeless and the disabled, as well as those deprived of their civil or human rights.
The 2017 class of Skadden fellows will spend thousands of hours working for social justice in 10 states and the District of Columbia. Three scholars come from Big Ten law schools.
As a 1995 Skadden Fellow, David Thronson, MSU Law’s associate dean for experiential education, knows the power of the experience.
“By supporting Monica and her project, the Skadden Foundation helps launch a career in public service, leading to a lifetime of using the law to help society’s vulnerable,” said Thronson, who’s also co-director of the Immigration Law Clinic.