2015 – Jose Alonso

Jose Alonso joined LAF shortly after his law school graduation and has been helping to stabilize the lives of families through his work there for nearly eight years.  As a senior attorney with the Illinois Migrant Legal Assistance Project, he represents migrant and seasonal agricultural workers across Illinois in wage theft, working condition, general employment, immigration, housing, and public benefits matters.  These workers are highly vulnerable to exploitation in many forms, including wage theft, discrimination, sexual harassment, and human trafficking, and are often housed in abhorrent conditions.  Jose locates these workers, educates them about their legal rights, and empowers them through legal representation.  This position requires not only a highly skilled attorney with expertise across a wide range of poverty law issues, but also an advocate who can readily establish trust, understand the nuances of doing outreach, and commit long hours to traveling across the state.  This perfectly describes Jose, who colleagues describe as a natural leader, an aggressive advocate, and indefatigable in his commitment to clients.  In addition to his substantial outreach and caseload, Jose represents LAF in coalition work and is a member of the organization’s Limited English Proficiency Committee and Racial Justice Subcommittee.  His exceptional work has resulted in empowerment, access to justice, and improved conditions for thousands of vulnerable workers across the state.

Jose’s pursuit of social justice extends far beyond his work at LAF.  For the past 10 years, he has led many efforts to bring peace, justice, and education to Back of the Yards, the Chicago community in which he grew up in and continues to be involved in today.  Jose co-founded the Immigration Committee at Holy Cross/IHM Parish, where he gathers parishioners to advocate for and serve the immigrant community.  He has also fought legislative redistricting, helped form a park advisory council after a mass shooting, promoted civic engagement among residents, and worked with his church to provide alternative programs for youth to stay safe and gain an education.  Jose attended Loyola University Chicago School of Law, where he received numerous accolades.  His passion and unyielding commitment to social justice is truly inspiring.

As a result of his extraordinary efforts and accomplishments advocating for low-income migrant and seasonal workers, Jose was awarded a CBF Sun-Times Public Interest Fellowship in 2015, a financial award that will help meet his law school loan obligations.  “I would like to thank the Chicago Bar Foundation for its generosity and its continued commitment to accompany those who serve people in poverty.  The decision to advocate for and empower people in vulnerable situations is often an easy decision for public interest attorneys; however, the commitment is sometimes challenged due to financial realities.  The CBF Sun-times Public Interest Fellowship will help lessen the financial burden on me and my family and will help me focus on the mission:  to serve those who yearn for justice, respect, dignified treatment, equality, opportunity, and access to resources.”