Working in immigration policy takes hard work and dedication, but Francisco Garcia ’22 already has a seat at the table. A politics and Hispanic studies double major, Garcia’s interests and studies at Oberlin as a Posse Scholar landed him an internship in the office of Congressman Jesús G. “Chuy” García in Washington, D.C. last January. His work there, as well as at other organizations dedicated to reforming U.S. immigration policy, has inspired Garcia to pursue a career in immigration law.
Garcia was born and raised in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, a predominantly Latinx community home to many Mexican immigrants. The son of Mexican immigrants, Garcia grew up around the idea of immigration but did not fully grasp the concept until high school, becoming more aware of the issues facing both the United States and his neighbors in Pilsen.
“I started realizing that people need help. I have the privilege of being a citizen and coming from a background that understands the problems of immigration. That was where my interest sparked,” Garcia said, citing family and community as the contributing factors to his growing passion for immigrant rights.
Garcia entered Oberlin as one of 10 Posse Scholars under the faculty mentorship of Professor Travis Wilson and knew immediately that he would major in politics and Hispanic studies, a balanced course load of history, culture, and policy to prepare him for a career centered around immigration.
The Posse Foundation, which matches students with mentors based on their interests, paired Garcia with Kalman Resnick ’70, a Chicago-based immigration attorney with connections to Congressman García. In the summer of 2019, Garcia interned for the Congressman’s campaign, helping to fundraise more than $100,000. Soon after, he was offered an internship in García’s office for winter term 2020.
During the month of January, Garcia sat in on committee meetings and hearings, taking notes for the Congressman’s “right-hand person,” reporting back to the office, and helping to write official memos. Garcia recalled attending a census hearing, which he describes as “one of the most memorable experiences.” The hearing aimed to find ways for more immigrants to fill out the 2020 census despite fear sparked by a question regarding citizenship status proposed by former President Trump.
According to Garcia, the internship was a life-changing experience. “I knew going into this internship that it was going to be very white,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting to be that present, so being in Chuy’s office was definitely motivating and reaffirmed for me that people from my background can make it.”
This internship fell into place neatly with Garcia’s ongoing work at the National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago, where he interned in the summer of 2018 with plans to return this coming summer. There, he worked alongside the center’s director, attending confidential hearings and taking notes on the city’s changing policies.
Such an important “seat at the table” initially seemed daunting, but Garcia quickly found his footing. “At first, I wasn’t sure if I really belonged or what to do exactly, but eventually, I left it all there on the table and did my best work.”
For Professor Wilson, Garcia’s work ethic caught his attention in Posse early on. “Francisco has always impressed me for having a no-nonsense approach to academics and community work while also being able to keep things light and fun. People trust him. What you see is exactly what you get, and that is genuine leadership in every important sense of the word.”
Garcia exercises his leadership at Oberlin, where he is part of the El Centro Volunteer Initiative. The initiative connects students to the Lorain County-based organization, which provides various social services to immigrant communities in the area. Garcia teaches English and citizenship classes, serves as a board member of the grant writing team, and teaches the Oberlin El Centro ExCo. At home, Garcia works for the Gage Park Latinx Council, teaching classes and supporting food pantry efforts for immigrant communities in Chicago.
Currently, Garcia has his sights set on law school and spends his time researching different programs and prepping for the LSAT. He hopes to become an immigration lawyer or an immigration policy analyst.
Garcia thrives on community and civic engagement, two reasons why he chose to attend Oberlin, where he also runs for the cross country and track teams.
“Everyone here is on the same page, putting a great emphasis on civil work,” Garcia said. “There are so many clubs and programs at Oberlin that focus on different issues and do fantastic things. Being surrounded by a lot of passionate people is very encouraging.”