By: Cody McElroy
LSU Law recently welcomed a burgeoning new organization to campus. The Hispanic Law Student Association (HLSA) was formed by a group of 3L students, Elisa Samaniego, Christian Ornelas, and Andrew Whall, who recognized a need for a Hispanic organization at the Law Center. HLSA aims to encourage the participation of Hispanic law students in the legal community through professional development and networking opportunities. In addition, the organization holds events throughout the semester to foster the discussion of legal issues affecting the Hispanic community.
HLSA was in its early stages of conception when its current president, Tatiana Torres, 2L, inherited leadership of the organization in the spring of 2016. She subsequently completed the organization’s charter for submission and HLSA gained official status in the fall semester of 2016. HLSA is currently composed of approximately twenty members, and three officers: President Tatiana Torres, Vice President Carolina De La Pena, and Secretary Matthew Boles.
According to Torres, HLSA harbors two main goals: awareness and integration. Awareness involves the task of educating HLSA members and the PMH community about the federal, state, and local role in the Hispanic legal realm. Integration involves assimilating law students into the Hispanic legal community, especially those Spanish speakers who can utilize their bilingual abilities. Torres emphasizes that there are several upcoming HLSA events and encourages all students to attend, not just club members.
One such event took place on Monday, February 6th when HLSA hosted a presentation regarding the abolishment of the United States’s “Wet-Foot, Dry-Foot” Cuban immigration policy. Doctoral student Liz Lebron from LSU’s main campus presented compelling research on the history and repercussions of the legislation, which stipulated that Cubans intercepted at sea were to be sent back to Cuba, but allowed those who reached land to stay.
On February 20th, HLSA will host a round table discussion with LSU Law’s Professor Aronson and Professor Goring on recent changes to immigration policies in the United States. Torres explained that these events intend to expand awareness beyond national headlines, highlighting Louisiana’s state and local role in immigration.
Torres described a conference entitled, “The Louisiana and Cuba Connection,” hosted by the Petroleum Club of Lafayette last October as evidence of Louisiana-Cuban intimacy. The conference focused on re-establishing Louisiana-Cuban relations after the recent easing of relations between the United States and Cuba.
The pressing need for Spanish speakers in the legal community was evident in the lack of communication during disaster relief efforts for Katrina and the recent Baton Rouge floods. Torres explained that undocumented aliens worked as day laborers in rebuilding efforts and many workers were not paid at all for their labor. Due to a lack of English proficiency and legal understanding, they were afforded no recourse in claims of unpaid wages. Torres emphasizes the need for Spanish speaking lawyers and law students to lend aid in these situations.
Torres also plans to work with the Hispanic Lawyers’ Association of Louisiana (HLAL) and Hispanic organizations at Tulane and Loyola in order to promote integration within the Hispanic legal community.
HLSA also hosts “Que Pasa?” events. Similar to Professor Moreteau’s bi-weekly, French-speaking meetings, Que Pasa’s are informal meetings held every two weeks to practice Spanish, at all levels. Torres brings Cuban coffee and “pan dulce” (sweet bread), writes a couple phrases on the board for the day, and picks a topic on a Spanish-speaking country for discussion. Que Pasa’s were held on Fridays at lunchtime in room W326B, but have moved to Mondays in room 108.
Membership to HLSA is open to all LSU Law students and the ability to speak Spanish is not a requirement. For additional information on HLSA and upcoming events, visit the HLSA Facebook page, send an email to HLSA at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by the organization’s website at https://sites.law.lsu.edu/hlsa/.