KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – As each graduate works across the stage the University of Tennessee’s College of Law, one graduate, in particular, is taking her adversity and using it as the driving force behind her career of choice. Karla Mendez, a law graduate who’s become a U.S. citizen, now dreams of helping other immigrants.
At age 13, Mendez, her sister and her mother fled Venezuela as basic necessities became scarce.
“Things deteriorated really quickly and things started getting really dangerous and there was food scarcity,” said Mendez. “It was not a situation that my mom wanted her two girls to grow up in and she wanted to give us a future.”
Her journey to the mother and lawyer she’s become wasn’t an easy one.
“There’s no legal way to immigrate and for a lot of people it’s just not as simple as okay I’m going to submit my citizenship papers and turn them in,” Mendez said. “You can’t just be like hey I want to live here legally, take my papers and my money.”
At 13, Mendez found strength with and through her family. She learned English, worked countless side jobs for years, eventually putting herself through college. This past April, 11 years later, Mendez finally became a U.S. citizen. As she remembers her path and finds her path, it only fuels her dream to help other immigrants.
“There’s a lot of people dying every day because they don’t have access to medicine — that are struggling to even find something to eat,” Mendez said. “Little kids literally attacking a trash truck to pick up bones and stuff to take home and make soup. It should not be that way.”
While Mendez and her family were able to find a way into the country legally, she recognizes the struggles of countless others who were not.
By Gabriella Pagan for WATE.COM
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