BY: | DATE: Aug 24, 2020

“I’m not going to sit down and let it happen.”

1L Lisa Cho’s empowering declaration is pertinent as an incoming law student amidst a pandemic and as an undocumented student seeking stability in a time of uncertainty.

1L Lisa Cho Headshot

The rescission of DACA propelled Lisa to become an advocate for herself, and law school was the logical next step of her journey. While the law is something that’s complex and often difficult to understand, it’s been a part of her life from the very beginning. She was once silent about her status, because it’s not something that could be safely shared with strangers.

“I realized many things I was already doing pertained to law, from the reason why DACA was being rescinded to why DACA existed in the first place.”

Lisa has been involved with immigration work since her freshman year of college at The John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where she established the college’s Immigrant Student Success Center (ImSSC)—the first of its kind in the City University of New York (CUNY) system.

She was originally interested in criminal law, but after interning with civil court judges, she quickly realized she wanted her work to be community-centered.

John Jay Rising Scholar of Justice celebrating friendsgiving

Lisa and fellow John Jay Rising Scholars celebrate friendsgiving

Lisa notes- “The community is what really drives people to change, and I want to be on the ground helping the community.”

Lisa lives in a liminal space as a DACA recipient and student. While DACA is the reason she can go to law school and take the bar exam, DACA can also make her ineligible to take the exam, if it is rescinded. Her status already prevents her from getting federal aid, and bank loans require a U.S. citizen cosigner.

Amid a pandemic, the already stressful transition into law school, and her undocumented status, Lisa faces obstacles. Her future rests in the hands of those who have the privilege and platform to fight for DREAMers who still can’t talk about their status.

Lisa hopes to land in the Immigration & Non-Citizen Rights Clinic [INRC], which would enable her to do transformative work with professors and other law students to support and advocate for the immigrant and non-citizen community.

ISWI Exec Team Photo Lisa Cho

John Jay DREAMers Executive team and ImSSC hosting the I Stand With Immigrants Day of Action

When asked if she had any advice for prospective students thinking of applying to law school, she first said “believe in yourself — not because you can do it, but because you’ve already done it. Keep going. Don’t sit down and let it happen.”

Her second and most profound piece of advice was to normalize feelings of stress and frustration.

“Everyone I’ve met during this process has experienced breaking points. It’s normal. You might cry. It’s ok! When you speak to admissions, be transparent with your stress and anxiety. They get it! Stay open to communication and find mentors. Speak to a therapist, and make sure you take care of your mental health. It’s already hard enough starting law school. Try not to check out.”

You can keep up with Lisa’s work and advocacy on Instagram at lisacho_ and on LinkedIn