The first undocumented immigrant to earn a degree from the UCLA School of Law, Luis A. Perez has an extraordinary story of personal resilience and social justice. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley by way of Jalisco, Mexico, Perez pursued a path of higher education and openly advocated for undocumented immigrants, knowing that at any moment he could be deported. In high school, he became the public face of initiatives like state Assembly Bill 540, a 2001 measure that allowed undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at California universities. Years later, he would become UCLA Law’s first student to benefit from AB 540. Eventually, he had a voice in meetings with esteemed politicians like Bill Clinton and other celebrities and was frequently featured in media coverage. Since 2012, he has coordinated the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals (DACA) legal clinic, a program of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA). His work has helped thousands of children apply for DACA in California, and his advice has benefited thousands more in other states. Perez currently directs CHIRLAs Legal Services Department, which provides low-cost immigration services, including DACA and naturalization advising, removal defense, and family unification advocacy.
“I have learned first-hand that it is only during times of adversity that we have the opportunity to be leaders and show true courage.”