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Hall of Fame

Nora Adriana Preciado

In Nora Adriana Preciado, a seed was planted while she attended Santa Ana College, and it has blossomed into a tree of life for countless immigrants to the United States. As a civil rights litigator for the non-profit National Immigration Law Center (NILC), Nora has been involved in some of the most important civil rights and immigration-related cases of the last decade. These range from early work as an undergrad on the DREAM Act to continuing work against Arizona’s anti-immigrant law SB 1070 and similar copycat legislation in other states.

An outstanding student at Santa Ana College, Nora excelled in classes such as Women’s Literature and Shakespeare. She also was very involved in Alpha Gamma Sigma, the honor society, both at SAC and in the community.  Her last year at SAC, Nora worked for Freshman Experience as a student aide and as a clerk for the Honors Transfer Program, helping to organize systems that are still in place today.  A multiple scholarship winner, she was nevertheless forced to delay transfer to the UC system because resolving her immigration status took longer than anticipated.

Nora was determined from her early days at SAC to become an immigrant rights’ attorney, a commitment fostered by her own family’s struggles with the United States immigration system and their desire to give their four children a slice of the American dream. Nora’s experiences were memorialized in a chapter under a pseudonym in Prof. William Perez’ book, We ARE Americans: Undocumented Students Pursuing the American Dream, and she is an eloquent spokesperson about her path to success beginning with community college. When her immigration situation allowed, she transferred to UC Davis, where she majored in political science and minored in English Literature. She was one of a few students chosen for the UCDC program in Washington DC and won the outstanding research paper award while interning with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) where she worked on the initial DREAM Act.

She continued to excel at UC Berkeley Law School, making Law Review and the Board of Law Review. She passed the bar exam on her first effort and joined the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as an Equal Justice Works Fellow, where she immediately found herself working on significant impact litigation seeking to protect the rights of day laborers. Nora was very instrumental in plaintiff recruitment and documentation, a difficult task since day laborers are frequently on the move and distrustful of authority figures. Her natural abilities to relate to people and organize information ultimately led to success after long, arduous district court and appellate battles. While at the ACLU, she worked challenging unjust immigration detention policies and protecting the rights of immigration raids’ victims before accepting the new opportunity offered to her at NILC.

When she joined NILC, Nora frequently trained labor unions and other advocates on how to protect immigrant workers' rights. Harassment and intimidation tactics against undocumented workers by abusive employers were commonplace, but nothing deterred Nora from her pursuit of justice for those who, without NILC, would not have a voice or representation. Nora has even appeared before the Supreme Court as amici in support of the case against Arizona’s racial profiling, anti-immigrant legislation. Nora is also part of similar legal challenges to laws in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. Over the years, Nora has become a “go-to” spokesperson with the media on immigrants’ rights and immigration issues.  In particular, Nora frequently appears on Univision and other Spanish-speaking networks in an effort to reach affected communities.

During the last few months, Nora has been working furiously on a case that is near and dear to her heart. In the summer of 2012, President Obama announced a program granting immigrant youth who came to the US as children and obtained an education here, often called DREAMers, the right to apply for permission to live and work in this country for two years. However, soon after, Arizona announced it would deny DREAMers the ability to get driver’s licenses. Many of the brave plaintiffs in the case are pursuing higher education, hoping to earn a decent living while contributing to their families and their community, but the lack of a driver’s license is a huge obstacle on their path.  This is yet another immigrant rights’ battle that Nora, with many others, has had the privilege to work on.

Nora continues to challenge herself on other fronts, applying for and obtaining the prestigious Rockwood Fellowship for a New California, as well as joining a team to co-teach at Loyola Law School. In spite of her incredible professional accomplishments, Nora remains firmly grounded. She passionately mentors aspiring attorneys, hosts a book club, remains close to her friends from SAC, travels extensively, and continues to be an outspoken advocate for the community college system. Most of all, Nora remains a humble servant in pursuit of social justice for all.

“I have always been aware of how important the community college system was for me in achieving academic success and continuing my education” Nora explains. “As a low-income immigrant family with three college-age children at the same time, Santa Ana College was our only realistic option. SAC offered us an excellent, affordable education in a supportive environment which set us on the path to success.”