Double major aspires to make impact on Latino community through immigration law


Emily Balli

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

Emily Xiomara Linares is a first-generation Arizona State University student who aspires to bring awareness to social justice issues that impact the Latino community. This spring, she will receive dual bachelor’s degrees in psychology and justice studies with a certificate in socio-legal studies from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Xiomara Linares was first drawn to psychology because of the stigmas associated with mental health in Mexican culture.

“Coming from a Mexican background, mental health isn't really talked about. It was important to me to study something that I could use in my future and help my community with,” Xiomara Linares said. “Psychology was just one of those fields where there's not a lot of women of color, Latina psychologists out there, and it would be amazing to have more out in the field to help our community.”

She added justice and socio-legal studies later, after working as a legal secretary for a personal injury lawyer and seeing firsthand the lack of specialized resources, guidance and assistance available to the Latino community in the legal system.

“I think it was very inspirational to see how a Spanish speaking attorney could help people who had no idea how the legal system worked. I chose justice studies because I knew that it was going to hit on all the social justice issues that impact the most marginalized communities, including the Latinx community,” she said.

The Arizona native also participated in several internships during her time at ASU, where she worked to create change for immigrant and Latino populations. In her role as a community organizer with Aliento, she collaborated with the campaigns director on the organization’s civic engagement project and assisted in planning and executing campaign events. She also served as a community outreach intern with Mi Familia Vota Arizona where she engaged with the Latino community and shared information regarding civic engagement.

She said her journey at ASU was made possible with the support of the President Barack Obama Scholars Program.

“That completely impacted my experience. I'm so grateful and thankful that I was able to receive a scholarship that was able to cover all my tuition expenses as well as living expenses. Quite frankly, without the scholarship I wouldn't have been able to afford the university,” she said.

Xiomara Linares shared more about her ASU journey and gave advice for first-generation students.

Question: Were there any clubs, organizations or opportunities that positively impacted your ASU experience?

Answer: My sophomore year I joined Kappa Delta Chi sorority, a Latina-founded sorority here on campus. That organization has helped me tremendously. It's a nontraditional sorority and its mission is to help the sisters graduate. Our two main focuses of the organization are on academics and community service. So through the organization, I have been able to not only help my community, but also focus on my own academic studies. It has also helped with my professional development, through leadership opportunities and helping create events and hosting events on campus. On a personal level, the organization helped me build a good support system at ASU. A lot of us in the sorority are first-generation students so it helped to meet people with a similar background and experience to my own.

Q: Did you experience any obstacles along your way? How did you overcome them?

A: Being a first-generation student is a whole obstacle in and of itself. It's very difficult to come into university without having the guidance and the help from family members. So that can be a struggle but I'm going to graduate soon and that’s just proof that it is possible. There were a lot of resources and help that I was able to receive to help me overcome those obstacles. Meeting my first-year success coach was really helpful because I was able to talk to someone who was in college and she actually happened to be first-generation as well. I got some really great advice from her.

Q: Which professor taught you an important lesson while at ASU?

A: Gregory Broberg, a justice studies professor. I took a class with him when the pandemic started and something that stood out to me was how he would take time in the class for us to talk to our classmates so that we would have connections and social interactions. I think while we were all going through this crazy time in our lives he really made a point to have us socialize and talk with others. It’s important to take 10 minutes out of our day to ask how others are doing because you really don't know what anyone is going through.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: I highly recommend joining clubs and organizations — I think that has made the biggest difference in my university experience. When you are a first-generation student, you are going through a lot of struggles, but I think it's important to know that you aren't alone and that there are resources and help for you. There are a lot of people going through the same thing and you may not realize it until you start looking. Whether it's a sorority or fraternity, an academic-based club, a social club — whatever it is — get out there and meet people. My other piece of advice is to be uncomfortable. Put yourself in uncomfortable situations because that's how you grow and develop as a person.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I hope to get into the legal field, specifically the immigration and criminal law field. I hope to work with the immigrant community including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) individuals, people from mixed-status families and the undocumented community. I want to work hands-on with these communities and make a difference in Arizona. Hopefully down the line, I will be able to attend law school.