The son of a first generation immigrant from Guatemala, Miguel Keberlein Gutierrez sees his talent and education as a means to help migrant workers make meaningful changes in their lives. For several years before entering law school, Miguel participated in Water for People, a community development project in Guatemala. He designed, developed, raised money for and personally helped build potable water systems, schools, bridges and roads in rural communities. This work became Miguel’s inspiration to enter law school and become a legal aid attorney.
Upon graduating from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 2002, Miguel began work as an attorney with the Illinois Migrant Legal Assistance Project of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago (LAF). Each summer, thousands of migrant agricultural workers come to Illinois. They are some of the most vulnerable and exploited workers in our country, routinely paid sub-standard wages and often forced to live in deplorable housing. One of only two attorneys in the state of Illinois dedicated to this particular area of the law, Miguel’s work was featured in an article in the September, 2006 issue of Chicago Lawyer magazine.
Miguel’s work is not easy – the travel is hard, the accommodations are spartan, the workers are often frightened and hard to engage, and agricultural employers are used to running their operations without oversight. Miguel finds his work not only fulfilling and exciting, but a reflection of what he believes the practice of law should truly be.