Every month, Southern Arizona Legal Aid’s (SALA) Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP) recognizes a legal professional for their legal volunteerism. The award is a distinct honor and highlights the dedication and commitment of 12 individuals each year who give their valuable time and expertise to the community. Attorney Valerie Hink is the March 2023 Outstanding Volunteer of the Month Award Recipient for her work in the field of immigration law.
Valerie’s legal career did not stem from her undergraduate degree, but rather, from life itself. This native New Yorker began her higher education journey at Barnard College in the “big apple.” Jokingly, Valerie comments that her parents did want her to be too far from home. After two years at Barnard, Valerie eventually ended up in Maine graduating from Colby College in 1975 with a degree in biology. Later, she earned her master’s degrees in Zoology from the University of Minnesota. Following her passion for the biological sciences, Valerie ended up working for Arizona State University for their Center of Environmental Studies. Frustrated with how government agencies used her data and research, she decided to pursue law in order to have a bigger say.
Valerie attended University of California at Los Angeles Law School and obtained her juris doctor in 1987 under the assumption she would pursue environmental law. However, as the daughter of an immigrant, Valerie ultimately ended up working in immigration law. Her father was a displaced person following WW2 and came to the United States to seek asylum. Valerie spent much of her legal career working with asylum seekers and helping establish legal residency for immigrants saying, “it was the natural path for me.” Before she worked with SALA, Ms. Hink worked at the nonprofit Tucson Ecumenical Council Legal Assistance (TECLA).
Valerie not only currently volunteers for VLP/SALA’s for immigration cases, but she previously worked for SALA for 24 years, retiring in 2018. Outside of VLP, Valerie works with Professor Lynn Marcus at the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona in the Immigration Law Clinic. Additionally, Ms. Hink is one of eight on the board of the Asylum Program of Arizona which provides financial aid to those in need.
Speaking with Ms. Hink about a variety of topics was very enlightening. Aside from the standard background information that comes with any interview or accomplishment, Valerie took time to explain her legal knowledge about the Violence Against Women’s Act and application to immigration policy. With the closing advice for all future law students of “go for it,” Ms. Hink showed her joy for future lawyers’ passion in immigration and helping those who need it.
We are truly grateful to have Valerie as one of our volunteers and former employees, not just for her vast knowledge, but also for her kindness. The Volunteer Lawyers Program at SALA would not be complete without her volunteerism.
By: Jocelyn Ehalt, Legal Intern VLP, BA Law/Political Science/Psychology, U of A