Making a positive impact on immigration

Midia De Souza
Midia De Souza. Courtesy photo

Midia De Souza said the turning point for her experience at the University of Washington Bothell was the Washington, D.C., Human Rights Seminar.

The highlight of the annual course is a fast-paced week in the capital where students meet with lawmakers, federal agencies and human rights organizations.

“I never thought I’d be in those rooms, meeting very influential people and actually having them answer my questions and take us seriously,” De Souza said. Her trip in 2019 was led by Camille Walsh, an associate professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences.

“It made me feel I had a voice, also a weight of responsibility to be the voice for people who aren’t there,” De Souza said. “No one in my family has ever done this before.”

Immigrant experience

De Souza’s research project for the seminar focused on violence, especially the killing of women, in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. These are among “the deadliest countries in the world,” she said, noting that a lack of justice from weak governments caused people to flee, creating an immigration crisis on the U.S. border.

“For me as a Latin woman, it was important to represent other Latin women fleeing horrible places of violence,” De Souza said.

These situations resonate with De Souza, whose family came to the United States from Brazil when she was a young child. She grew up in Georgia, before her family moved to Washington three years ago. She remains keenly aware of her roots.

“One good thing I’ve learned from having a family of immigrants is having a hard-work ethic and just valuing people, listening to them,” she said.

Graduating in 2020 with majors in Law, Economics & Public Policy and in Media & Communication Studies and with a minor in Human Rights, De Souza told UW Bothell Magazine how she coped with remote operations in her final year. She plans to attend law school and would like to become a lawyer working in immigration or a similar area of public service.

Huskies Dream Team

Even before enrolling at UW Bothell, De Souza worked at Open Door Legal Services, a small law clinic at Union Gospel Mission in Seattle that helps people who are homeless. She assisted with legal filings and interpreted for Spanish-speaking clients. She also helped them secure identification needed for housing and jobs.

Witnessing first-hand how immigration and family law work, De Souza said she realized she would do well in this type of career.

“Seeing how working with the law can impact people in a positive way made me feel this is what I really want to do,” De Souza said. “I learned to respect people‘s stories and not rush them. I’m passionate about immigration. That’s where my heart is.”

After taking the D.C. seminar, De Souza also realized she wanted to become more involved with immigration issues on campus. She co-founded the Huskies Dream Team, which supports students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and other undocumented students by serving as a source of information about scholarships and graduate schools.

Another influential experience at UW Bothell was competing as a member of the Debate Society, which is a combination of a program within the School of IAS and a student club. She learned about rhetoric while gaining confidence in public speaking.

Validating values

De Souza is a 2020 recipient of the University of Washington Bothell Chancellor’s Medal and one of the students named to the Husky 100 in 2020. The medal is presented to students whose commitment to learning and overcoming obstacles is a source of inspiration. The Husky 100 honors students from across all three UW campuses for making the most of their UW education.

De Souza said she was humbled and honored with these two forms of recognition, especially as the first one in her family to receive a degree from a four-year college.

“To receive these awards validates my experience,” she said. “It also validates the commitment and sacrifice my family put into my ability to be at UW Bothell.”

UW Bothell gave her a place where she felt she was welcomed and had opportunity, De Souza said.

“The great thing about Bothell is this community. The professors want to show you the skills that you need and give you the strength to believe you belong here and your voice is valuable,” she said.

Each year, the University of Washington selects 100 students who are making the most of their Husky experience. Thirteen UW Bothell students were recognized as part of the Husky 100 Class of 2020. What’s special about a Husky 100 recipient? They dare to do. They use what they learn inside and outside the classroom to grow personally and to create change in their communities.

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