Staff Spotlight: George MacDonald
Meet George MacDonald, Equal Justice Works’ justice Americorps Attorney at Social Justice Collaborative’s main Oakland office.
Before working at SJC, George went to Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, where he focused mostly on immigration law. He also worked on many unaccompanied minor issues and volunteered at family detention centers and Catholic Charities. After taking his bar examination, he flew over to Guatemala and worked with Guatemalan youth for a few months. “I always knew I wanted to work in immigration law, especially with children,” he said.
He joined SJC in December 2016 as the Equal Justice Works justice AmeriCorps Attorney to provide legal representation to all children in removal proceedings by representing them. As part of the justice Americorps program, George is one of 46 legal professionals working to represent immigrant children who arrived to the United States without a parent or guardian. He represents unaccompanied minors fleeing extreme violence and poverty in their home countries and hoping to obtain legal status in the United States. All of the unaccompanied minors he represented are native Mam or Spanish speakers that came from El Savador, Guatemala, and Mexico. His passion for helping immigrant children not only came from his time in Guatemala, but the fact that legal aid is not provided for everyone. “Most people cannot afford to hire an attorney, especially when it comes to children. Most of them do not have a right to an attorney, and the statistics are increasingly alarming. Around 90% of children that are not represented are ordered removed. That is why I represent them to reverse that,” said George.
George’s work doesn’t just revolve around representing children and successfully helping them gain legal status. He made it a priority to also connect with his clients and seeing them grow. He shared a moment about an undocumented client that he first connected with when he was just starting out in January of this year.
“When I first met with this client, she barely talked to anyone in the office and was distressed. Now, she comes into the office and says hi to everyone and makes jokes and laughs with us! It was really empowering to see her evolve and acknowledge that we are fighting for native Mam speaking clients like her.”
Moments like that with his clients are the main reasons why George enjoys his work. “It has been the most gratifying for me to see the positive changes that impacted their lives.”