For Andrea Martinez, a 2004 John Brown University graduate, chapel services were about much more than filling a requirement. For her, chapel was the beginning of a decades-long career dedicated to immigration law and it led to a decision that changed the course of her life forever.
Martinez was a cross-cultural services major during her junior year when she attended the chapel that changed the course of her life. “I thought I was going to be a missionary. I love people from other cultures. My parents were travel agents.” She continued, “There was a group of human rights lawyers that came and spoke on campus for chapel, and it was International Justice Mission. They came in and spoke to us about how there is slavery in the world and human trafficking in the world and what they were doing about that. I had no idea about how much injustice there was in the world until that chapel service. It really transformed my life and my career path and I decided that I was not going to go be a missionary. I was going to go be a lawyer.” In an interview with Julie Gumm, JBU’s director of university marketing and communications, Martinez said “The practice of law is a holy calling.”
Martinez recounts the emotionally evocative chapel, saying, “I went to my bed and I just broke down. Hearing the screams of girls who were stuck in sex trafficking in my head. I was sobbing after this chapel service, and it became very clear to me that I needed to go be a lawyer.” After taking the LSAT and graduating from JBU, Martinez spent time at both Regent University and American University, ultimately graduating in 2007.
After graduation, the first thing she participated in was a fellowship with the International Justice Mission. She asked them to send her to Guatemala, where she prosecuted child sex-offenders for about nine months. During that time, she reconnected with former Walton Scholar, Jorge Martinez, who is originally from Honduras. After their engagement, Martinez realized that she wanted to broaden her idea of human rights and began taking a further interest in immigration law.
“I did his immigration paperwork, and I messed it up. This was after me having a law degree and taking multiple immigration law classes. I still didn’t know how to do this. I learned through his petition—as my first client and guinea pig—that immigration law is really complex. It is rewarding, but also very complex.”
Currently, Martinez has gained some popularity in social spheres for her work. After appearing in the shocking immigration docuseries “Living Undocumented” that premiered on Netflix in late 2019, she has been in an ongoing battle with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over injuries sustained in a trade-off.
Despite her court battle, she also described some of the more glamorous moments from her time in the spotlight. “One of the people who attended the premiere at Netflix headquarters was Rosario Dawson, as well as [Dawson’s] amazing mother. Her mom called everyone into a circle, and there were hundreds of people in a circle holding hands, from all different faiths. Selena Gomez’s plus one, who was the Hillsong LA pastor, said, ‘We’re gonna pray for immigrants.’ It was so meaningful, and I broke down and ugly-cried during that prayer.”
Martinez continues to run her own law firm in Kansas City, Missouri. Her website reads, “At Martinez Immigration Law, we believe that immigrants deserve high quality, honest legal representation. We view the practice of law as a calling to serve our clients. We zealously advocate for the rights of our clients and seek to find creative solutions to our clients’ needs. We understand the importance of the immigration process because we have family members who have gone through it as well. At Martinez Immigration Law, we value you and will honor the uniqueness of your case.”
Correction: The original article had stated that Martinez graduated from JBU in 2005. This article has been updated to reflect that Martinez graduated in 2004.
Photo courtesy of Andrea Martinez, Martinez Immigration Law