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Maria Gonzalez '09 Focuses on Immigration Law

Maria Gonzalez '09

For most law students, the biggest concern on any given day is what club is offering free lunch. For third year student Maria Gonzalez, she has a bit more on her plate. Gonzalez manages law school classes along with involvement in the Immigration and Nationality Law Review, in addition to maintaining a family with a husband and two children.

Gonzalez, who immigrated to the United States at age 19 with her husband Carlos, is mother to Andrea and Cristobal, ages 14 and 10 respectively. Originally from Venezuela, Gonzalez married her husband there before the two immigrated to the United States and settled down in Idaho. “Carlos is an American citizen,” said Gonzalez. “He was actually born in Boston and raised in Venezuela. So although our English was not the best, we were able to easily make the transition from home to the United States.” “We only found that people wanted to help us” Gonzalez said of her experience with the transition. “People were kind and always willing to give us a hand.” When Gonzalez arrived at Idaho she was pregnant with her first child, Andrea. Soon after her birth, Gonzalez enrolled at the University of Idaho. “Since we could not afford to put our daughter in daycare, Carlos and I alternated our student and parent roles as one went to school and the other took care of Andrea.”

Go west, young woman!

Following their time in the Idaho, Gonzalez and her husband moved to California where Carlos pursued a degree at the University of California at Berkeley. “It opened our eyes to other cultures,” explained Gonzalez. “Where we lived one could hear residents speak Korean, Japanese, German, Hebrew, and sometimes, even English.” she added. Within this multicultural setting, Gonzalez realized there were countless other people like Carlos and her, trying to get their start in the U.S, After spending two years in California, the couple moved to Arizona with their daughter Andrea and their newborn son Cristobal. Gonzalez entered school at Arizona State University studying Business Administration with a focus on Marketing.

Having two children might seem like too much for most law students, but Gonzalez has mastered the art of parenting, studying, and multi-tasking! Thanks to the accommodating nature of UC Law, Gonzalez was able to select her section during her first year. She selected the section where classes ended earliest most days so that she would be able to be home when her children finished school for the day. She does most of her reading at night following an afternoon full of driving Andrea to volleyball or tennis and Cristobal to soccer. “When we’re at home, we all do our homework together,” said Gonzalez. “My kids only interrupt me if they have to because they understand that I need time to finish my assignments.” Gonzalez added that the law school experience has affected her children as well as herself. At age 14, her daughter Andrea brings home handouts from school with the important points highlighted so Gonzalez can easily go through the information. “My kids know that I love being a mom but that I also have a lot of interests. They encourage me to do what makes me happy,” she said. In terms of how her family has affected her experience with law school, Gonzalez had much to say. “One thing that having a family gives you is the ability to keep things in perspective,” she said. During exam week, Gonzalez is happy to be reminded by her family that “it’s just an exam.” Not only does Gonzalez have a supportive family of her own at home, she has been joined at UC Law by younger sister Mariana Madrid, who began her first year this fall.

Life impacts law 

Along with a full course load this semester, Gonzalez will serve as a Senior Articles Editor for the Immigration and Nationality Law Review. The Immigration and Nationality Law Review, instituted at UC Law in 1998, is an internationally recognized annual law journal which publishes student casenotes, comments, book reviews and essays on topics relating to immigration and nationality issues. Her involvement with INLR began in her second year and was prompted by her own background as an immigrant. “I wanted to work with INLR because I had a personal connection with the issues,” she said. “I wanted to promote discussion about the topic.” Her role includes providing support to the students writing articles and giving feedback on their work. In addition, INLR plans to utilize the online community cite TWEN, provided by Westlaw, to post information about immigration.

Gonzalez on the job

Gonzalez spent her first summer working for Toyota’s in-house counsel team. “Toyota was a great experience for me,” she noted. Gonzalez spent this past summer working in Cincinnati office of Greenbaum, Doll & McDonald PLLC. With a varied employment history spanning several areas of law and practice, she has many career options following graduation. Her passion lies with immigration law, however. “I think I will end up doing some immigration related work and, hopefully, I will be able to use my Spanish to help Hispanics in the area who struggle due to language and cultural barriers” she said.

For the granddaughter of two-time Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez, life in law school has kept her humble and down to earth. In her free time, Gonzalez and her husband are involved in Hispanic scholarship work and she tries to fit an exercise regime into her busy schedule as well. Her attitude about law school and life is contagious and with one year left to complete, Gonzalez is undoubtedly on the path to great success. “I had a friend who told me once, ‘Even if you don’t end up practicing law, go to law school. It will change you. It changes the way you think and makes you look at the world differently. It will make you a better person.’ I agree with that,” she said with a smile.