We the People is a blog series that features the stories of members, supporters, volunteers, and allies of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming. Together we are accomplishing critical work in our state to protect and advance civil liberties throughout the region and beyond.
In college, Rosie told her great grandmother she’d work at the ACLU one day. Today, she serves as the Immigration Staff Attorney at the ACLU where she supports Wyoming’s immigrant community.
Through her role at the ACLU, Rosie provides both affirmative and defensive representation to low-income immigrants facing removal from the United States or who are otherwise vulnerable and in need of legal assistance, free of charge. Through this work, she has learned to redefine what a victory looks like and embrace the need for self-care while still doing important work for others.
When Rosie isn’t meeting clients and community partners, she can be found DJing at local parties and devouring the best vegan food Jackson has to offer.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve lived in Wyoming for almost 23 years and have been practicing immigration law for over half of that time. I believe deeply in the right of immigrants and limited English speakers, regardless of economic or language barriers, to access competent support as they navigate the complexities of our country’s criminal and immigration systems, and I’ve dedicated my career to filling that gap in Wyoming as much as I can. I’ve also spent time working on poverty alleviation, crisis services, and advocacy for equitable housing policies in Teton County and beyond. When I’m not in the office, I can be found hiking with my toddler or snowboarding in the Tetons, DJing your local party, or seeking out the best vegan food in town.
When did you first hear about the ACLU and why is the work appealing to you?
I remember telling my great grandma I hoped to work for the ACLU someday way back when I was in college, so it’s been at least a couple decades since I first heard about the ACLU’s work. I was drawn to the organization’s boldness, its determination to do and say what’s right even if it’s unpopular, and, more recently, its success in pushing back against the oppressive policies of the previous presidential administration, particularly those policies that were harming immigrant communities all over the country.
You’ve been working at the ACLU for more than two years, what keeps you here and how do you remain hopeful?
During my time as an immigration attorney, I’ve learned to redefine victory a little differently than I used to. It’s often receiving a green card in the mail or watching someone become a U.S. citizen. But sometimes it’s just that we’re able to buy someone a little extra time in the U.S. with their loved ones and arrange a more graceful exit than forcible removal from the country in government custody. Or that they leave my office feeling more informed and with a clearer understanding of their rights than they had when they arrived. Or that we can’t get a visa approved but we can convince the government to let someone stay without one.
"It’s the wins, however small, and the heart and grit of the clients I have the privilege of working toward those wins with, that keep me going."
What do you wish you knew day one on the job that you know now?
That I will eventually run out of breath to help other folks if I don’t put my own oxygen mask on once in a while. Self-care belongs on the to-do list just as much as the other stuff does.
How do the ACLU’s issue areas relate to you personally? Are there any that stand out in particular?
As a member of the queer community, I appreciate the ACLU’s efforts to protect my rights and those of my family against laws and policies that discriminate against LGBTQ+ people. Being a part of a multi-racial household, I’m also grateful for the ACLU’s anti-racism and racial justice initiatives.
How do you use the work you do at the ACLU to advance civil rights and civil liberties in Wyoming?
Everyone has a right to effective representation in their immigration cases and to be free from unnecessary detention in an immigrant holding facility, whether or not they have the ability to pay a private attorney. I’ve used my position to make sure immigrants and those in professions who often work with immigrants know what their rights are and how to exercise them, what the current laws and policies are, and what benefits individuals might be entitled to within the immigration system. And we keep an eye out for large-scale abuses or discrimination against immigrants around the state so that immigration authorities and law enforcement can be held accountable for their actions.
What is your fondest memory working at the ACLU?
We organized the community’s first “citizenship day," where folks who were eligible to naturalize but were intimidated by the paperwork, or who couldn’t afford the fees associated with hiring an attorney, could come to get help with preparing their applications from trained volunteer attorneys and accredited representatives. It was a lot of work, but looking out over the room as attendees and volunteers worked diligently on the citizenship forms was worth every bit of the effort.
Do you have any advice for folks who want to work at the ACLU one day?
Give an internship a try! It’s a great way to get a feel for the organization, and the supervisors do a fantastic job of providing interns with a meaningful opportunity to make a difference and experience what the work is really like.