Meet Haley Taylor Schlitz, a law student, daughter, sister and descendant of immigrants from Africa and Europe. Though she is only 16 years old, Haley has an undergraduate degree in education and will be starting law school this fall. She has seen recent immigration policies impact both her family and friends, and as a result she is taking steps to advocate and speak out on behalf of immigrant families. Haley currently lives with her family in Fort Worth, Texas.
Haley describes her process to becoming a law school student at such a young age. “I went to the Texas public schools from second grade to fifth grade. When I was in fifth grade, my parents noticed my grades were falling. They decided to pull me out of public school and start home-schooling. I graduated high school at age 13, started attending my local community college and started my first year there at 14. I transferred to TWU (Texas Woman’s University) and graduated from there at 16. I turn 17 this summer and will be starting law school at SMU (Southern Methodist University). I think being younger than the average student helped me get to where I am. It’s really what makes me stronger, it’s what makes me, me. I think it’s what helped me get into law school, my background. I think it’s made a huge difference and changed my whole perspective. I motivate myself. I’ve always wanted to be challenged. Being able to live in the reality of the world at a younger age then maybe most people get to, is a privilege.”
Haley is also politically involved at an earlier age than most. An active member of the student senate while at TWU, she authored a resolution calling on the university to support DACA recipients and their family. In addition, Haley is the youngest ever delegate to the Texas Democratic Party, and a vocal supporter of immigrant rights. She sees her friends and other young people paying more attention to politics, especially concerning immigration. “I feel like in some ways because of the current leadership of our nation, things will change for the better. I think this issue has done a lot to open the younger generation’s eyes. Things we might not have even been aware of were happening here. Even from bad things, good things can happen.”
Haley’s immigrant heritage extends to Africa and Europe, with ancestors having passed through Ellis Island. She feels a more immediate connection to immigration via her sister, who moved to the U.S. from Ethiopia and was adopted by the family. “On my dad’s side, my ancestors come from Germany and Ireland. On my mom’s side, [my ancestors] were slaves from Africa, brought here to the U.S. against their will. So for one half of my family, it was voluntary [immigration] because they wanted to be free. And on the other side of my family, America was forced on them. [Immigration] is very personal for me, because my sister is adopted from Ethiopia. Although my sister is an American citizen, there have been plenty of American citizens who have been deported. It makes me worry about her. I have a friend who’s fearing deportation. He’s an American citizen, but his parents are not, so I think he is afraid for them. That one day, he’ll come home from school and they won’t be there. That’s something no kid should have to fear, but he does. It impacts so many people, not just my family, but so many other families. It’s terrifying for them, and it’s motivating for me, to speak up for those families. I try my best to make change however I can.”
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