Every month, Southern Arizona Legal Aid’s Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP) recognizes a legal professional for their legal voluntarism. The award is a distinct honor. Of the 533 attorneys and paralegals who volunteer their time, twelve are recognized annually for their dedication to access to justice.
Maggie Guzman is the February 2021 Outstanding Volunteer of the Month Award Recipient.
Originally from Guanajuato Mexico, Maggie moved to Arizona with her parents and sister and traveled back and forth throughout her elementary and high school years. She then attended the University of Arizona for her bachelor’s degree in Communications with minors in Business and French. After that, she earned her JD from the American University Washington College of Law. Originally, she was drawn to medicine and acting; only after going to Los Angeles to pursue a career as an actress, did she decide to go to law school. Her immigration law professor recognized her empathy and listening skills in interacting with clients, convincing her that her abilities and aptitudes would make her a good lawyer, and encouraged her passion to pursue immigration law, a decision that pleased her family.
Maggie has been crucial to SALA throughout the switch to virtual platforms and teaches nine legal information classes in – divorce, paternity, and minor guardianship. She also is crucial in teaching Spanish divorce and family law classes. Maggie has gone the extra mile teaching these classes remotely via videoconference and helping individuals even during a pandemic. In addition to working with SALA, she also is a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer where she is a mentor and friend to a child in the foster care system. She is there to advocate for their best interest but also to give them some normalcy in their childhood by taking them to eat and helping them with school.
The most impactful part of Maggie’s job is seeing the relief in clients’ faces when they reach closure in a case. One moment stands out to her from when she was working with an eleven-year old boy and his mother who were seeking asylum in the United States. The young boy was constantly fearful that he would be taken by a gang or separated from his mother. He couldn’t sleep without his mother and seemed to be constantly worried about his wellbeing. Finally, in the last meeting Maggie had with his mother, she saw him playing in the toys section and finally acting like a child. She describes this as extremely rewarding to see the change in an individual’s personality and mood firsthand.
Another impactful experience was when Maggie was in law school and traveled to Iraq to help individuals seeking asylum through the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). These individuals were promised visas in exchange for helping American soldiers by giving them information. The IRAP program matches law students with these individuals to help them go through the legal process. Once a year they host a legal clinic, and Maggie was able to travel to Iraq and help four individuals successfully leave Iraq and move to Canada, Sweden, and two other European countries.
In her free time, Maggie likes to watch Netflix shows like The Office and Law and Order, hike when there is something exciting at the end like good food or a waterfall and play with her two chihuahuas Dora and Frankie. She is looking to get back into community theatre, but her plans have been slowed down by COVID-19. Maggie also translates and interprets in her free time using her knowledge of French, Spanish, and English to help businesses and nonprofits in Tucson.
For questions or comments about the blog, please contact us at Connections@sazlegalaid.org