STUDENT PROFILE Daihana Estrada
Championing immigrant rights
Daihana Estrada uses her life experience to help others
On June 11, 2020, Daihana Estrada got home from her first-ever courtroom appearance. As an intern at the National Immigrant Justice Center, she had just taken over an immigration case under the supervision of an attorney. She wanted to celebrate the moment, so she fired off a tweet:
“Who would have thought that the 17-year-old girl from Utah who witnessed her parents being deported would appear before an Immigration Judge today for her first Immigration case as a law student. I couldn’t change my parents' outcome but I will do my best to change someone else’s.”
When she logged into Twitter the next morning, she had gone viral. As of press time, the tweet had 82,200 retweets and 609,600 likes. The judge ruled in the client's favor, and Estrada's client was allowed to stay in the United States.
“Immigration is such a big issue, and people needed some positive news.”
Estrada’s journey to law school began when she was a teenager in Utah. In 2010, her parents received poor representation when trying to adjust their immigration status and were deported to Mexico. Seventeen-year-old Estrada was an American citizen, and she had to make a decision: leave the U.S. with her parents or move to Chicago to live with her brother. She chose Chicago. She struggled in the years following her parents’ deportation, experiencing multiple bouts of homelessness. Through the support of Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, she became an advocate for other homeless youth, including sharing her story to raise awareness. Everything that happened to her strengthened her resolve: “That’s when I decided I wanted to pursue a career in law,” she says.
Her viral tweet encapsulates that story in less than 280 characters. “I think it resonated with so many people because immigration laws affect so many people in the U.S. and to hear that someone turned their hardship into a positive change inspired many people,” she says. As the retweets and likes kept rising, people began reaching out. ABC, NBCLX, and Univision invited Estrada to tell her story to national audiences.
Estrada noticed that many of the people reaching out over Twitter were teenagers experiencing similar struggles. “There were so many students who were inspired by my story who were saying, ‘Hey, I want to go to law school, can you help me?’” she says. So in August 2020, she organized a virtual panel of seven law students—six from Loyola University Chicago School of Law—to talk about preparing for the LSAT, handling imposter syndrome, and navigating the challenges of being a first-generation student.
That’s just the beginning of Estrada’s involvement at Loyola. She’s the academic director for the Latinx Law Student Association, where she sets up mentorship pairings between students. She’s also the president of the Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, which brings awareness to the Loyola community by partnering with other Loyola initiatives such as the Center for the Human Rights of Children and the Immigrant Detention Project.
And Estrada is still tweeting to her more than 6,300 followers. In addition to social justice issues, Chicago news, and Ramblers basketball team retweets, she continues to tell her own story. On March 13, 2021, she tweeted: “Primeramente dios, this first-gen Latina (who’s gone through many obstacles to get here) is going to become an attorney this year.” –Megan Kirby