Alumna Sarah Balderas makes big impact in immigration law

Feb 15, 2018
Judge Moritz and Baldaras. Judge Moritz is a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit Judge and she administered the oath at the swearing-in ceremony for clinic.

At Newman University, students are prepared to transform society.

Since Sarah Balderas graduated from Newman in 2015, she has been making her way through Washburn Law School, many internships and has had a big impact on the lives of her clients. She has been involved in public service and immigration law through her internships and was recently recognized for her impressive efforts.

Balderas graduated from Newman University with her Bachelor of Arts in English. She was on the softball team, president of the Hispanic American Leadership Organization (HALO) and did more than her share of volunteer work while at Newman.

She reflected on her time at Newman and said, “I met so many amazing people, learned a lot of life lessons and eventually succeeded in my goal of going to law school. … My professors were exceptional. They really forced me to think in a different way than I had before which was great preparation for law school.”

Sarah Balderas
Senior photo of Sarah Balderas at Newman University

Balderas decided she wanted to go to law school because she wanted to help people. She also said, “I love reading, writing and talking to people, so I thought law school would be the best way for me to use my skills so that I can help as many families as possible.”

At Washburn, Balderas is the president of the Hispanic-American Law Student Association and the Pro Bono Society.

However, the main reason she chose Washburn was the nonprofit legal clinic connected to the school. She held three internships during her time in law school before finally getting her chance to enroll in the Washburn Law Clinic.

She first worked as a legal intern at Kansas Legal Services in Wichita the summer after her first year at Washburn. There she did juvenile defense work and filed numerous expungements. In the fall, she interned with Judge Gwynne Birzer at the Federal Courthouse in Wichita where she did legal research. She still looks at Birzer as a mentor and uses her as a resource from time to time.

The next summer, she was a legal intern for the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Chief Counsel for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This internship piqued her interest in immigration law. She has since continued working in that field at the Washburn Law Clinic.

Her interest in immigration law stems from personal experience; her father’s family immigrated to the United States from Mexico. “This type of law is really rule-driven, which is what I like,” she said, “and it gives me a chance to connect with clients on a personal level.”

She has gained important experience while interning at the Washburn Law Clinic.

“When the Department of Homeland Security released the memorandum that essentially rescinded DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), I helped my supervising attorney set up a DACA Walk-In Clinic for those who were eligible for renewals. I worked tirelessly for my clients throughout the semester,” she said.

Balderas was awarded the Ray Spring Award for 2017 for these efforts.  The award is given to a Washburn Law Clinic intern who demonstrates the highest commitment to their clients in need.

Balderas’ supervising attorney, Gillian Chadwick, presenting her with the Ray Spring Award.

Balderas said, “I was honored to be the recipient of the Ray Spring Award, as there were many other deserving interns at the clinic.”

She will graduate in May 2018 with her Juris Doctorate degree and will start her career once she passes the bar exam. She has accepted a position as an associate attorney at McDonald, Tinker, P.A., in Wichita. Primarily, she will be practicing immigration law, which will consist mostly of family benefits and removal defense.

“I would just like to express how grateful I am for the opportunity to receive my bachelor’s degree from Newman University,” she said. “I am so proud to say that Newman University is my alma mater. I want to thank my professors for putting everything they have into their teaching.”

She’s excited for the next step in her career but said, “My ultimate career goal is to become a practicing attorney specializing in immigration and criminal law and to help as many families as possible.”

She urges anyone who’s interested in pursuing law to reach out to her via email at [email protected] with questions or for advice.