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Get to Know UDC Law: Student Edition | Liana Montecinos

Monday, April 2, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Erin Looney
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Among the more than 200 U.S. law schools, UDC David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC Law) consistently ranks in the top 10 for diversity. In 2017, U.S. News & World Report gave the School the #7 spot, and the Princeton Review identified the faculty as 4th most diverse in the U.S. PreLaw gave the school an A+ rating in 2017 and ranked UDC Law at #8 for African American students for 2018.

Behind the outstanding rankings are even more impressive people, and UDC Law is excited to share their goals, achievements, and inspiring stories!

Meet Liana Montecinos

Liana Montecinos wearing a shirt that reads, They wanted to bury us, but they didn't know we were seeds
Liana Montecinos wearing a shirt that reads, "They wanted to bury us, but they didn't know we were seeds." This is a proverb that depicts the challenging times the immigrant community is going through and how immigrants overcome adversity. In other words, no matter the obstacle, we will survive and thrive.

From fleeing danger in her native Honduras as a child to developing paths to increase Latino representation in the legal field, Liana Montecinos has made a life out of creating solutions where there are none. Montecinos will graduate UDC Law in May, taking her action-oriented approach into her career as an immigration attorney.

It’s difficult to say for sure where her determination to turn adversity into advocacy began. Perhaps it started with the woman who raised her, her great-grandmother, who encouraged education. Montecinos says her great-grandmother stressed that, “despite being so poor, I should pursue my educational dreams because education is a treasure no one can take away from me.” Montecinos has not forgotten that advice, graduating summa cum laude from George Mason University with a B.A. in Spanish Literature and magna cum laude with a B.A. in Philosophy before starting her legal education at UDC Law.

Perhaps the determination started with Helen Ackerman, the woman Montecinos considers her mentor. Ackerman, says Montecinos, “believed in me when I was a victim of the broken immigration system and devoted herself to me as if I was her own child.” When Montecinos faced removal proceedings, Ackerman hired an attorney to help her update her immigration status, paid her out-of-state tuition when her scholarship would only cover part of the cost and now serves as the chair of United for Social Justice, the non-profit Montecinos started nine years ago. “She is truly my biggest gift on earth,” Montecinos said of Ackerman. “She has taught me that things are resolved with kindness.”

Montecinos has worked in immigration law for several years, arming her with a wealth of experience to bring to her work at UDC Law. She is a Senior Paralegal at Benach Collopy, where she has worked for six years. Previously, she served as a Legal Assistant in the Detained Children’s Program at CAIR Coalition.

Since starting her J.D. program, Montecinos has participated in several programs or initiatives focused on helping her become a world class immigration attorney. She has worked with the Immigration & Human Rights Clinic at UDC Law as both a student and a teaching assistant. This work gave her the opportunity to visit the Farmville Detention Center in Virginia in November, where she and other students joined CAIR Coalition to conduct intakes of detained adult immigrant men. Last spring, Montecinos traveled with other students on a one-week service learning trip to Karnes City, Texas, to help detained immigrant mothers and their children. Following the trip to Texas, Montecinos started a Facebook page, Team4Inmigrante, dedicated to her and her colleagues’ experiences in immigration law.

Montecinos is also active with the UDC Latinx Law Student Association, serving as Immigration Chair in 2016-17 and President in 2017-18. She was instrumental in planning last week’s LLSA Conference, an opportunity for D.C. area high school and college students to speak with current Latino and Hispanic law students about preparing for, applying to and excelling in law school. Furthermore, she is the Director of Community Service for the National Latina/o Law Student Association.

Montecinos somehow also finds the time to inspire other local high school immigrants to pursue higher education. She has been a keynote speaker for the Fairfax County Principals’ Kickoff Event, J.E.B. Stuart High School’s graduation, and the Early Identification Program at the Prince William Campus. She also speaks in partnership with the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, an initiative dedicated to “closing the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society.” In May of last year, Montecinos received the Social Justice Award from El Poder de Ser Mujer, a non-profit that empowers Latina and Hispanic young women. In February, the University of the District of Columbia honored her at Founder’s Day with a Student Humanitarian and Civic Engagement Award.

Despite all the recognition she receives for her work, Montecinos remains focused on serving others. At 11 years old, she walked across three countries toward a safer life. Since then, she has been running at full speed helping others find their own safer lives. When she graduates in May, she will continue that fight, now with J.D. in hand.

Montecinos holding an award with Helen Ackerman
Montecinos and Helen Ackerman, taken at the reception at Founder's day where Montecinos was recognized by UDC

Students Montecinos and Crane with another woman holding a sign reading Women Together
Montecinos and fellow UDC Law student Makeda Crane with a supporter canvassing for Hillary in Hazleton, Penn., where Montecinos says they “were screamed at to ‘get out of my damn streets.’" She adds, “The town was the seed for anti-immigrant legislation nationwide.”


Group photo of students and professors
Montecinos, Prof. Campell, Prof. Hale and the group of students who went to Karnes Detention Center in Karnes City, Texas, during spring break in 2017. The group helped detained immigrant mothers and their children with their immigration cases.



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