By the age of 16, Karen’s passion for immigrant rights – in particular, reform enabling immigrant access to higher education in Virginia – developed as she became a proactive advocate. Despite the many challenging barriers that first-generation, undocumented students must overcome, Karen earned an International Baccalaureate Diploma from Washington-Lee High School, and graduated as a class Valedictorian. During this time, Karen also engaged with the Dream Project, driving her to help initiate the strong support and mentoring network that the Dream Project now provides to other immigrant high school students.
Karen was dismayed to witness the 2010 collapse of the DREAM Act, which offered qualifying children of undocumented immigrants a potential path to legalization and permanent residency. She feared she would have to contend with, as so many undocumented students do, overwhelming obstacles to pursuing higher education. However, because of her exceptional accomplishments, Karen received a partial tuition scholarship to Southwestern Adventist University, and graduated in three years with a double major of International Business and History. During her undergraduate years she interned for Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, and gained exposure to litigation with the Advancement Project and The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. After graduation, she became the Project Administrator at NovaSalud, Inc., a community health nonprofit.
Currently, Karen is a second-year law student at Washington and Lee University School of Law. Her first summer she interned as a law clerk for the Office of Attorney General of Virginia and will spend her next summer working as a law clerk for a California law firm. Karen continues to find ways to integrate her passion for immigrant rights with her legal studies and recently traveled with a team of volunteers to Tijuana, Mexico in order to provide legal aid to the ongoing migrant and refugee crisis at the border. Her diverse experiences and the challenges she has overcome makes her a leader among lawyers, community advocates, and policymakers in the field of immigrant rights.