Annie Zangari didn’t have particularly strong views on immigration growing up in the predominately white town of Northampton, Pa. But after completing her first year at Villanova University law school, the 23-year-old joined the school’s immigration clinic in May 2013. And she has come to believe that the public perceptions of immigrants often don’t square with the reality. “You hear people say, ‘They are coming here to take our jobs,’” Zangari says. “That’s not what I see.”
Many of the clinic’s clients are women who fled Central America. “In the cases I’ve been getting, women are being targeted by gangs and are victims of domestic violence,” Zangari says. “For a lot of them, returning home could be a death sentence.”
You hear people say, ‘They are coming here to take our jobs.’ That’s not what I see.
In addition to her work at the immigration clinic, Zangari handles cases at Villanova law school’s farm workers clinic. Many of those clients are undocumented workers, whose lack of status has made them particularly vulnerable to the exploitation by unscrupulous employers.
Representing these immigrants has lead Zangari to believe strongly in immigration reform. She feels there must be better ways to assist immigrant women in need and protect foreign-born workers from substandard wages and dangerous conditions. Zangari has only completed a single year of law school, but even if she doesn’t become a full-time immigration lawyer, she says she will, at least, devote part of her career to pro-bono work on behalf of vulnerable foreign-born workers. “These people,” she says, “deserve our help and protection.”