When Yolanda Ruiz arrived in the U.S. from rural Guanajuato, Mexico at 10, she quickly found herself in another world.
“The language barrier was a huge obstacle that I thought I would never overcome. Going to school with kids who you can’t speak to is very difficult for a child,” Ruiz said.
“Neither of my parents went to school. School was a luxury, not a necessity, and they didn’t want the same for us.”
“I remember seeing a computer for the first time, and I was not sure what it was supposed to do.”
Ruiz quickly overcame the language barrier and enrolled in Purdue University Calumet after graduating from East Chicago Central High School in 2004.
She received a bachelor's degree in political science from PUC in 2008, and in May graduated with honors and a juris doctor from the Valparaiso University Law School.
“I think my past experiences have compelled me to want to advocate for others. I knew that becoming a lawyer would allow me to do just that,” she said.
“Having experienced first-hand the intricacies of immigration law enables me to be compassionate towards the issues my clients will face.”
Ruiz was able to assist several clients facing immigration issues while still a student as part of Valparaiso University’s Immigration Clinic.
“(The clinic) offers services to immigrants with claims grounded in human rights, asylum seekers, torture survivors, crime victims, persons who have been trafficked into the U.S. or exploited here, and persons who are facing deportation,” she explained.
In addition, Ruiz received the rare opportunity to present a client dealing with immigration issues in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, one of 13 U.S. Courts of Appeals.
“Arguing before Judges Posner, Rovner, and Manion was quite intimidating, especially after having read many of their opinions throughout law school,” she said.
“I achieved something great – to not pass out in the middle of the court room. To know that I was arguing a case before people that have taught me about the law was incredible.”
Ruiz is the daughter of Crescenciano Ruiz and Maria Belen Ruiz, and resides in East Chicago.
“With the love and support of my mother, father and fiancé Jose Raul Cardona, there are no limits,” Ruiz said.