Current Fellow 2021-22

photo Peraza LizarragaJoana Peraza Lizarraga – Protecting DACA-Age Youth in the Central Valley

Joana will spend her fellowship year working at California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation (CRLAF) representing DACA-age youth. She will be based out of CRLAF’s Sacramento office but will work with individuals from across the Central Valley.

In 2012, President Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that provided some protection for young immigrants who arrived in the United States as children and are an active part of society. California’s Central Valley is home to about 27,600 DACA recipients, and around 395,000 Californians are immediately eligible to apply but were unable due to President Trump’s attempt to repeal the program. Currently, USCIS is once again accepting initial DACA applications and there is a high need for legal services in the area that is unmet due to limited low-cost representation and long waitlists. Due to the temporary nature of the program, it is also vital to find more permanent solutions for this population. Many DACA applicants, when assessed for other potential eligibility during individual consultations, are actually eligible for a stronger immigration remedy.

Joana will serve and be responsive to the legal needs of DACA-age youth and provide her clients stability in their immigration status by seeking stronger forms of immigration relief in addition to petitioning for DACA. Joana will provide individual consultations and direct representation, community education and outreach, and DACA application workshops. If any additional forms of immigration relief become available to this population during Joana’s fellowship term, she will also lead CRLAF’s efforts to assist eligible people.

Joana is a 2021 graduate of University of California, Davis School of Law. During her time in law school, she interned with CRLAF and the Nevada Supreme Court, and was a student counselor at the UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic. She was a co-chair for La Raza Law Students Association (now Latinx Law Students Association). Before law school, she interned at the Nevada State Legislature, U.S. Senator for Nevada Catherine Cortez Masto’s office, and volunteered at Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada in their immigration department.

Joana received her undergraduate degree from University of Nevada, Reno, majoring in International Affairs.

Joana is a DREAMer herself, coming to the United States at the age of 14. Growing up in
Northern Nevada, where the Latino population was small and access to resources was limited, instilled a desire in Joana to help others succeed, prevent family separation, and become an advocate for her community.