John Marshall Law School Graduate Helps Challenged Immigrants Fight for Citizenship

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The John Marshall Law School in Chicago is hosting its 197th commencement exercises May 18, 2014. As part of its celebration, the law school is highlighting graduating students, their stories and successes.

Before she’s even taken the bar exam, Julia Funke has begun her career of fighting for immigrant causes. A client with a complicated case, whom The John Marshall Law School student had been helping gain U.S. citizenship, recently took the official oath.

“We help people on their path to the American Dream, and every day I’m reminded of how lucky I am,” Funke said. “I never imagined I’d feel so passionate about something.”

Funke, of Lake Zurich, Ill., is among the 329 students who will graduate May 18 at John Marshall’s 197th commencement. Before attending John Marshall, she studied Spanish and international politics at Northern Illinois University. After taking a course about issues facing immigrants, everything seemed to click for her. “I finally felt like I had a direction, that this was all going to fit together for me,” she said. “I really fell in love with the immigrant cause.”

Although she was accepted to several Chicago law schools, Funke chose John Marshall for its emphasis on hands-on learning. “What drew me to John Marshall is that it is a very practice-based, experiential-focused school. It’s not just theoretical. I’ve always believed that education extends beyond the classroom, and I wanted to be at a school that fosters that.”

Her education outside of the classroom began after her first year in law school, when she interned with the Farmworker and Landscaper Advocacy Project, working with undocumented immigrants in disputes over wages and working conditions. “Your first summer, you think you’ll be working somewhere in a suit every day, but instead I was in jeans and a T-shirt doing community outreach and educating people about their rights,” she said.

When fall classes resumed, Funke continued her work through an immigration legal internship at the International Legal and Business Services Group. Among the cases she worked on at the firm – whose issues include business immigration and asylum cases – was that of a client who is deaf, mute and cognitively low-functioning. He could not take the Naturalization Oath because he literally could not speak. Funke was charged with helping the client secure accommodations for the oath.

John Marshall Professor Hugh Mundy helped Funke research the accommodations, connecting her with a professor colleague who had litigated the issue in the 1980s, before Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act. The colleague supported Funke’s proposed legal path, and her client is now a proud U.S. citizen.

Funke’s internship proved so successful, that she was offered a full-time position at the International Legal and Business Services Group after graduation. “I’m so thrilled to have a job where I can make a real difference,” she said. “I feel so lucky to have found work that I love.”

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Christine Kraly
The John Marshall Law School
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Marilyn Thomas
The John Marshall Law School
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