#BigThingsThursday is a weekly series of short interviews with people who are doing big things for the community and for the world. If you know someone who's doing big things and should be featured, let me know: BigThings@LucyKalantari.com.
Meet Lilia Velasquez: immigration lawyer, human rights activist and professor, ready to be inducted into the California Women's Hall of Fame in March, 2017. She's often called La Flama de la Justicia. She always wears red. She's fierce.
Lilia believes that her work as a lawyer should not stop there. She extends her knowledge to her community as she educates immigrants about their rights, and stays active in local politics. She takes her responsibility to create change very seriously.
Q. BIG THINGS begin with an intention, what is yours?
A. To inform, educate, and empower the immigrant community as to their rights in this country, and to defend them to the best of my ability if they are facing deportation. Every morning I get up with a mission: to seek justice for the most vulnerable segment of our population.
Q. How are you fulfilling this intention?
A. Since the presidential elections, there has been tremendous fear of raids and mass deportations, and even lawful permanent residents are afraid of losing their green cards. The legal community and advocacy groups mobilized immediately by organizing “know your rights” presentations and legal clinics to advise people of their rights in case they are detained.
Q. What barriers have you encountered, and how have you dealt with them?
A. I came to this country as an adult and the language barrier prevented me from achieving academic success during the first couple of years of college. I worked very hard to learn the language and achieved academic success in college and in law school. On the professional level, the challenges have been defending immigrants against the giant machinery of the department of homeland security, and representing people in court whose rights have been violated.
Extra: Share a favorite quote that keeps you motivated.
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” –Mae West
Lilia, thank you for your tireless efforts. I know you have and continue to inspire many young latino women to pursue their passion with immense dedication, because that's what it takes!
Lidia Velasquez practices law out of San Diego, CA.