Immigration has been a hot-button topic, spurring nationwide debate as it relates to policy changes to stem the flow of, specifically,Hispanic immigrants to the United States. There are many voices lending their opinions to this debate, however, the one thing everyone can agree upon is the need for appropriate reforms to address the issues we face today. As written so eloquently by this year’s Steinger, Greene, and Feiner Hispanic Heritage Scholar, Mario Paredes, “The laws of yesterday are not meeting the necessities of people today.”
In their practice, the attorneys at Steinger, Greene, and Feiner are committed to fighting against injustice and systemic disparities. “At present, the Hispanic community is under-represented in the field of law. We’re launching the Steinger, Greene & Feiner Hispanic Heritage Law Student Scholarship in order to help change that,” says Steinger, Greene, and Feiner founding partner, Michael Steinger. Possessing close to two decades of service to the south Florida community and witnessing how the landscape has changed, the firm put forward this scholarship to make it possible to assist a deserving student in reaching their dreams and impacting the country in a positive way.
First generation American scholarship winner, Mario Paredes understands “…the important role that law plays in the fight for social justice.” Though, he also acknowledges, “…there is no easy way to approach immigration on a national scale.” In his essay, Paredes, whose parents both hail from Guatemala, explains the “…common, yet deeply mistaken narrative of immigration in the United States…” is in stark contrast to policies surrounding the H-2A and H – 1B Guest worker visa programs in place to manage the labor shortfalls throughout the nation. Paredes believes these programs to be helpful, but recognizes the harm when no investment is made in the workers and they are used simply as a means of expendable labor.
Paredes, whose parents came to the United States to seek better opportunities, found themselves working six and sometimes seven days per week to support Paredes and his sister. To support the family, his mother cleaned houses, while his father worked in a factory, manufacturing airline parts. Through their example, Paredes learned the importance of work ethic. He worked diligently in high school, was accepted to and completed his undergraduate degree at Lehigh University, completed his Master of Education at Harvard, and is now attending Boston University School of Law.
He says it was during his undergraduate sophomore year that he became active in both the on-campus and off-campus communities, working with immigrants to organize around adult education, youth programs, and legal services. When he moved to Boston, he continued his advocacy efforts through the Centro Presente initiative – a statewide Hispanic American organization dedicated to self-determination and self-sufficiency.
Though Paredes is open to eventually entering local or state politics, he wants to secure his understanding of the needs of the community. He understands the importance of legislation, but believes, ultimately, it is necessary to “…get experience on the ground first, understand what families are going through, and get their input before proposing anything…”
Michael Steinger believes that “…young Hispanic leaders are capable of innovation and creative new approaches to law, business and community concerns. When we created this scholarship we hoped to identify someone like Mario Paredes. We want to continue to empower leaders like him to reach their full potential and transform our shared community.”