Before she’s even taken the bar exam, Northern Illinois University graduate Julia Funke has begun her career of fighting for immigrant causes. A client with a complicated case, whom the law 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 the197th commencement of the John Marshall Law School. Before attending the John Marshall, the Lincoln Laureate nominee studied Spanish and business at NIU, earning a minor in international politics studies. 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.”
After being accepted to several Chicago law schools, Funke chose John Marshall, where 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.
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.”