Alumni Enduring a Pandemic

Osvaldo Hidalgo | Madera South High School, 2013.

By Frédéric Martin, Editor-in-Chief

OSVALDO HIDALGO GREW up in Madera and graduated from Madera South High School in 2013. Four years later, at UCLA, he graduated with a BA in Political Science and a minor in Community Engagement and Social Change. Although he received Financial Aid to pay for his education, Osvaldo had to keep a few jobs to afford life in Los Angeles while going to school full time. Through his four years as an undergraduate student, Osvaldo worked for the men’s soccer team, for the fair housing department, and a few other side jobs.

While working towards his bachelor’s degree, he managed to spend a few months in Washington DC, in 2016, where he interned at an immigration nonprofit, an experience he leveraged to write a dissertation about immigration policies. His research revealed to him that both major US political parties use incrementally restrictive immigration policies as major talking points to guarantee rallying support, regardless of political ideology, going against the attitude of most Americans, whose wishes for a comprehensive immigration reform appear to have little representation under the United States Capitol rotunda.

After graduating in 2017, Osvaldo went to law school at Santa Clara University where he obtained his Juris Doctor degree in May of 2020. During his years in the Bay Area, he worked for the public defender’s office on criminal and immigration law in the Santa Clara County court system. At the time of our interview, Osvaldo had just taken the California Bar Exam and now awaits his tests results. Traditionally, the California Bar Exam takes place towards the end of July with the results published in late November, around Thanksgiving. This year, the deeply disruptive COVID-19 pandemic rescheduled the test to early October, of which the results should be available sometime in January 2021.

The first year in law school is mostly dedicated to learning general curriculum, at the end of which students can start taking on internship opportunities. Following his first year, Osvaldo worked in the Santa Clara County public defender’s office, taking on criminal cases for people who couldn’t afford attorneys, where he learned a lot about the criminal system, interviewing many people during arraignments and bail hearings, learning about rampant economic struggles, over-policing and other issues one can only encounter and face on the job.

The following year, he did some work for immigration nonprofits, putting on free immigration clinics through the Latino Lawyers Association of Santa Clara, and working for the public defender’s office. Working in the court system, Osvaldo got to do a lot of translation work, authored many motions, many of which were adopted, successfully fighting to reduce or remove excessive charges in some cases, further solidifying his knowledge of real-world legal proceedings and how to leverage his sharp mind and education to seek and obtain results.

His work really started to take off in his last year at school, as he worked for the Katherine & George Alexander Law Center, in Santa Clara, taking on nonprofit pro bono workers’ rights and immigration law cases in the San Jose area. He helped human trafficking immigrant victims through the process of applying for U and T visas, which grant victims of human trafficking the right to remain and work temporarily in the US, as they help law enforcement investigate and prosecute the criminals involved in the crimes committed against them.

Osvaldo also went multiple times to Arizona, working for the Florence Project, helping asylum cases in detention centers. When COVID-19 hit, he had just come back from spring break, working in Arizona, and finished his last semester online, moved back home as he was no longer allowed to be on campus. Osvaldo is now working for the alternate public defender’s office, taking on cases the office cannot handle.

When asked what COVID revealed to him, with no hesitation, Osvaldo immediately centered on the importance of being selfless, using one’s talent to helping others in need, and working to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

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