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An advocate for immigrant workers

June 05, 2013

Marsha Chien L’10 is a Skadden Fellow at the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center (LAS-ELC) in the National Origin, Immigration and Language Rights program. Before enrolling at Penn Law, she worked as a consultant in New York for a year and then as a Peace Corps volunteer in a Mayan village in Guatemala. In a video feature, she described her law school experience and commitment to lawyering in the public interest.



I’m Marsha Chien, I graduated in 2010. I’m a Skadden Fellow at the Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center in the National Origin, Immigration, and Language Rights Project.

As a Skadden Fellow, we represent undocumented workers, people who are discriminated against based on their national origin, usually for language issues. They might face an English-only policy in their workplace, which means their employer will say everyone can only speak English, regardless of the fact of whether or not that person’s primary language is Spanish, and their supervisor speaks Spanish and their  clients or customer speaks Spanish. We feel that is a basis of discrimination based on national origin.

One of the highlights working there was representing a worker and responding to them in Spanish. Then, just based on my response, which was a very short email, saying yes we got your documents, he sent a response that was a page long… [saying] “Just for the fact that you speak Spanish, I am so grateful, it means so much that you don’t think I’m a criminal. I just came here to work lawfully to support my family.” And it just made me realize just how important language is to each individual client.

I think Penn has supported me from the very beginning. From the scholarship I was on that helped me pay for my law school education to the dean of public interest, who has always been there guiding me as to which professor I should be talking to, which organization I should be contacting to work with, and even after when I was applying to fellowships -  they were still, when I was living across the country… phoning me [with] mock interview questions, which was great.

This transcript was edited for length. 

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