Emily Eason of Germantown, MD, has won the 2021 Changing the Law Scholarship. In her junior year at the University of Maryland, College Park, Emily is taking part in a joint master’s and bachelor’s degree program. Her graduate degree is in public policy, while her undergraduate degree is in government and politics.
Scholarship applicants were instructed to write an essay of 500 to 1,000 words explaining if they could change a law, how they would change it, and how it might be reformed to address contemporary issues.
Why Is Changing the Law Important to Emily?
In her essay, entitled “Can You Imagine?” Emily states that this question is most often posited by individuals in our society who have difficulty comprehending the plight of undocumented immigrants.
One of these individuals was a “well-to-do” friend of Emily’s who was taken aback that another of Emily’s friends, an undocumented student, wouldn’t be able to attend college.
The reason? Prohibitive state laws regarding college admission and state and federal financial aid bar her friend and other undocumented students from having access to undergraduate universities and financial aid.
This means her friend will likely be forced to settle for a lower-pay, manual job rather than achieving their “American Dream.” A situation that frustrates Emily.
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A Law Limiting Undocumented Immigrants
This frustration fueled Emily to compose her scholarship-winning essay. The piece centers around a 2011 Alabama law called the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act. She firmly believes that this law and other state laws like it should be eliminated “for the growth and success of U.S. society.”
She points out that undocumented immigrants that have earned their college education help American society by contributing to entrepreneurial ventures, welfare programs, and reducing higher prison costs for taxpayers.
She argued that 18 states allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition and attend college. In addition, six states permit undocumented students to access state financial aid (but not federal financial assistance).
Changing A Counter Point of View
When asked if she knew anyone who would support Beason-Hammon, Emily stated she had met friends at her school that not only agree with the law but believe the act should be applied in more states.
She said changing an individual’s viewpoint regarding immigration laws is complex and would rather have an educational dialogue. “I consider a discussion successful, as long as I got someone to think differently about their own beliefs,” she said.
She mentioned that in past discussions, she’s brought up the term “illegal” and its constantly varying meaning. And as an example, she points out that undocumented immigration wasn’t considered a crime in the U.S. until 1929.
How Would Emily Like the Immigration Legal Landscape to Look
Through writing her essay and studying immigration law, Emily’s goal is to help create a world where laws like Beason-Hammon are abolished. And Supreme Court decisions like Plyler v. Doe are expanded beyond kindergarten through 12th grade to include K-16 education for all undocumented immigrants and their children.
Additionally, while earning her Master of Public Policy degree, Emily turned her attention to the plight of long U.S. documentation wait times. A specific policy she believes needs challenging is a 1991 law that led to increased visa wait times for countries including India (4.5 years) and Mexico (just over three years).
Her research has also helped her discover that Filipino siblings of adult Americans must wait more than two decades for green card eligibility.
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Emily’s Pursuits Beyond Class
When Emily isn’t researching immigration policy or attending classes, she is active in a campus club she recently formed called Latina Pathways.
The organization is designed to “educate, advocate, and fundraise,” providing Latina immigrants a clear route to achieving U.S. citizenship, higher education, equal pay, and eventually professional leadership positions.
Her mix of undergraduate and graduate classes, her involvement in Empowering Women in the Law UMD, and being mentored by professors dedicated to political and anthropological research while studying for the LSAT keep her busy.
Additionally, she said she and her co-members enjoy taking part in campus bachata and salsa classes. These connections with her friends and roommates help her manage and enjoy her busy life.
What’s Next for Emily?
While her grades and academic standing are crucial, Emily wants to ensure that what she learns is put into practice when she graduates. “My main goal is to turn my passion for immigration policy and helping others into a successful career!” she said.
A career that includes working as a corporate counsel, specializing in global immigration law. She would also like to develop Latina Pathways into a nationwide nonprofit organization that provides “free legal services, healthcare, and career preparedness workshops to low-income and undocumented Latina immigrants.”
Emily says her mother and father are proud to welcome a future lawyer into their family. She credits her successful parents as providing examples for a driving work ethic that’s equipped her with the capability to strive for any opportunity life may offer.
About Pacific West Injury Lawyers Changing the Law Scholarship
Since opening its doors, Pacific West Injury Law has worked to help clients recover millions in damages. We believe that good laws protect our citizens; however, many older laws need updating.
Legislation that fails to change with the times causes problems for citizens and legal experts alike. Thankfully young people like Emily Eason are stepping up to challenge and improve these laws.
That’s why we’re pleased to contribute to Emily’s academic and legal pursuits by awarding her this year’s $2,500 Changing the Law Scholarship.