Jessica Dominguez Keeps Families Together

In 2012, immigration was an incendiary issue that dominated the Republican primaries and may even have swung the election. The President now seems prepared to spend political capital to achieve reform. But for Jessica Dominguez, a Los Angeles lawyer who was once undocumented herself, keeping deportees from being separated from their children isn’t political football—it’s very, very personal

by Margy Rochlin
jessica dominguez image
“I say to my clients, ‘Don’t give up. Don’t give up,’” says Jessica Dominguez, photographed in the California desert.
Photograph: Alessandra Petlin

For the next two hours, she holds forth about immigration to about 50 men and women. The subjects she covers are serious—what to do if you’re undocumented and you get arrested, how to track down a loved one who goes to work and doesn’t return home, whether or not your child is eligible for the deferred action program. But Dominguez mostly keeps the mood light, displaying a playfulness that she tamps down during her radio and TV appearances. When a beefy assistant walks self--consciously to the lip of the stage to adjust the microphone, Dominguez shouts out, “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give a round of applause for George. He’s single. No waiting!”

But before all this, she starts with a simple introduction. “Hello,” she says in Spanish. “I am Jessica Dominguez. I’m here to share with you all a message that I think is really important. I’m an immigrant just like you, and I came to this country without documents, but I am here now as a professional.” She pauses, then segues smoothly from hope to homework. “Each and every single one of us has a great opportunity to stay in this country as a family if only we take two steps. The first one is to know our rights, and the second is to know the laws of this country.” Dominguez may love the spotlight, but she loves her work more. And she will do her heartfelt best—whether on Twitter, TV or YouTube—to help her clients find a lasting home.

Margy Rochlin is a frequent contributor to More. She also interviewed actress Danai Gurira (“The Fine Prints”) for this issue.

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