Fighting for Asylum Seekers in the Legal System

Author: Amanda Pilarski

This story by Amanda Pilarski was originally featured on We Are ND on July 21, 2020.


Rudy Monterrosa

Between hours spent in courtrooms and in classrooms, Rudy Monterrosa ’01 J.D. has a lot of experience with immigration. But his knowledge on the subject is not strictly academic – it started in his own home.

“Growing up with an immigrant family, immigration was always a big topic,” Monterrosa says. “Well, not a big topic. It was just our reality.”

Monterrosa was born in San Francisco, California, but his father and mother came from El Salvador and Mexico, respectively. Watching how hard they worked to build a life for their family inspired Monterrosa to dedicate his own life to immigration, but it wasn’t until he saw a Latino attorney at a youth leadership conference that he knew exactly what form that mission would take.

After graduating from Notre Dame Law School in 2001, Monterrosa opened up his own law practice in South Bend and began working as an immigration attorney. He also continued working with the Notre Dame Law School, co-teaching through their Public Defender Externship Program and, in 2015, he became an adjunct professor to teach a course on immigration law. Monterrosa remains honored to share his passion for service and justice with the next generation of lawyers, but 2015 was not an easy time to become an immigration law professor. In the last few years, Monterrosa has had to quickly adapt his teachings to keep up with changing policies.

“It literally felt like every week something else was coming up that you had to talk about in class that wasn’t in the textbook. There were changes constantly happening.” Monterrosa says. “And then we started seeing what the administration was calling these ‘migrant caravans.’ They weren’t migrant caravans but mothers and children coming here and seeking asylum, doing things lawfully.”