Daily Guerrero ’17
Emigrating from the Dominican Republic to New York City at the age of 6 made a lifelong impact on Daily Guerrero ’17. She was 10 years old when her family moved again, this time from Queens to Utica, New York, a city with the fourth-largest concentration of refugees in the United States. Growing up there shaped Guerrero’s worldview, and engendered a deep appreciation for the many challenges immigrants face when acclimating to a new country.
As a teenager, she decided being a lawyer was her calling after her father was injured on the job as a meatpacking worker and his employer refused to cover his medical care. Guerrero helped file a lawsuit and accompanied her father to court, serving as his English-language interpreter. They won the case, and Guerrero realized she could serve as a bridge between underserved immigrants and the legal system. “I felt this sense of urgency,” she said, “to become a lawyer quickly and help other immigrants navigate our complex laws.”
Guerrero threw herself into academics, sports, and community service. After graduating with honors—on a full scholarship—from Harvard University, where she became active in community organizing and founded the Dominican Students’ Association, Guerrero returned to New York City to pursue a J.D. As a student in Columbia Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, she helped a political asylum–seeker from Burundi win his case. She also interned at the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals and Human Rights First—while also serving as a member of the Columbia Law Review.
Guerrero was proud to spend her final semester at Columbia serving the community and learning about the intersection of criminal law and immigration law as a full-time pro bono scholar with The Bronx Defenders. There, she represents clients who need advice on the immigration consequences of their criminal history or plea deals. In one recent case that she co-counseled, the client was on the verge of being deported, but received one more chance to turn his life around.
In 2016, Guerrero was awarded the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. This year, the Law School’s Black Law Students Association awarded her the first Constance Baker Motley Scholarship, honoring her dedication to the public interest. As she expressed when applying for the award, “I see a lot of parallels between the civil rights struggle and the immigrants’ rights struggle that has become so salient in our times.”
Guerrero says she wants to hit the ground running on her public interest career, and, in keeping with that, already took—and passed—the New York State bar exam. One of her primary career goals is to work with immigrant youth doing direct services. “If I can help a child stabilize their immigration status early on, for example, before they go to college, that can really change the trajectory of their life,” she said. “The impact of this work doesn’t just stop at their one case; it goes on much longer past their court date.”
A master planner, Guerrero already has the next few years laid out: A summer fellowship at a civil rights law firm begins in June. In September, she will start an 18-month Chadbourne & Parke Fellowship at The Door, a multi-service agency in New York City representing high-risk youth in immigration cases. And, beginning in 2019, Guerrero will clerk for Judge Edgardo Ramos of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. “Half my resume references career moves I haven’t actually made yet,” Guerrero said with a laugh. But, she added, “I do feel like I’m already on the right track to achieve my goals.”