Citlalli Ochoa's international experiences molded aspirations for helping workers worldwide

Citlalli Ochoa is passionate about human rights and her goal is to work with the United Nations in international women’s and workers’ rights issues. One of the Gender Equity/LGBT Rights Program’s Robert M. Dell Student Advocates this summer, Citlali is going into her third year at University of California, Irvine School of Law (UCI Law).Her life experiences living internationally, volunteering, and academics are all building to her future plans in human rights advocacy, and more specifically to workers’ rights. She is dedicated to achieving dignity and justice for workers worldwide.

Citlalli grew up listening to stories about her grandmother’s experiences working in California vineyards. The stories portrayed challenges and injustices women face in the workplace and highlighted the various factors that place low-wage workers at risk of having their rights violated. These include, but are not limited to, education, language, and cultural barriers, as well as improper use of employees’ immigration status to silence complaints. Her grandmother’s experience and the experiences of women like her made early impressions on Citlalli.  

Later, attending high school in Woodland, CA, Citlalli saw that social disparity, economic injustices, and political dissatisfaction are not unique to the developing world and that those issues are prevalent in immigrant and low-income communities in the U.S. Then, studying abroad in Spain while majoring Political Science and International Relations at UC Santa Barbara added to her international perspective on human rights. Her early life experience and academics motivated her decision to focus her legal career on helping disenfranchised, low-income individuals and communities.

Prior to law school, Citlalli’s foundation in worker’s rights and labor law began while working with the Economic Policy team at the Center for American Progress in Washington D.C. and contributing to the American Worker Project – a project focusing on labor-related policy issues and laws affecting fair labor practices. However, Citlalli’s experiences growing up going to school in both Mexico and the United States were what motivated her decision to focus on helping disenfranchised, low-income communities.

Citlalli has been prioritizing public service while at UCI Law and is active in several pro bono projects: assisting the ABA‘s Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities and the Permanency Applications Project, researching for the United Farm Workers-Global Justice Project, and case managing for the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Program. Citlalli was awarded a summer Peggy Browning Fellowship in 2014 to work at the Employment Justice Center in D.C., where she provided direct legal representation for workers as well as helped organize workers to advocate for higher wages, wage-theft prevention measures, and the rights of ex-offenders in the workplace. Through her service projects she has had the opportunity to interact and develop relationships with diverse communities. Specifically, Citlalli has been assisting Middle Eastern women who are victims of violence and trafficking, interpreters who worked with the U.S. military, and survivors of torture.

This summer with the Gender Equity/LGBT Rights Program team brings together all of Citlalli’s personal, academic, and pro bono experience. She is excited for the deeper dive into fighting for low-wage workers and women’s rights and hopes use her legal skills to strengthen workers’ abilities to advocate for their rights.

This fall, when Citlalli returns to UCI Law for her final year, she looks forward to continuing her service projects with underserved communities and participating in UCI’s Wage Theft Clinic and International Justice Clinic. She will also be cultivating her legal research and writing skills as Lead Article editor and Notes editor for the UCI Law Review, Executive Board member of the UCI Journal of International, Transnational, and Comparative Law. 

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