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Meet Jennifer Estrella McKinney, Immigration Staff Attorney

1/28/2021

1.Tell us about yourself.

I am the eldest daughter of Dominican immigrants. My parents immigrated to New York City from the Dominican Republic two years before I was born. At the age of 12, my family and I moved to Indianapolis and settled in Northwest Indy. I have remained in Indiana since then and feel very much at home here. Go Hoosiers! I obtained my undergraduate degree in political science from Indiana University, where I also minored in sociology and Latinx studies. My career aspirations were always to work in the legal profession. I obtained my law degree from Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. Being the eldest first generation American in my family, I feel that I always have navigated two identities and vicariously lived an immigrant experience through my immigrant family members. Immigration law has always directly affected people that are important to me. My passion for justice and cultural awareness naturally drew me towards studying immigration law in law school. I served as a student intern at the McKinney School of Law pro-bono immigration law clinic. I now have years of immigration law experience and am honored to serve in a field that places importance on global migration, family reunification and contributes to the rich fabric of the American society.

2. What is your role at Exodus? What does that entail?

I serve at Exodus as an Immigration Staff Attorney. I lead our Legal Services Program in advising and aiding our clients with their immigration law needs. Our most common services include filing for reunification with immediate family members, filing for adjustment of status when clients are eligible to become legal permanent residents, aiding asylum seekers and asylees with immigration legal processes as well as identifying any other forms of immigration relief.

3. How did you hear about Exodus and why did you want to get involved?

In law school, I became very aware of public interest organizations that served the immigrant and refugee community in Indianapolis. I volunteered, and formed part of student organizations that would occasionally collaborate with Exodus or serve the Exodus community. Through the years, I have stayed tuned into the amazing advocacy Exodus provides for its clients. I feel that my personal interests and passion for immigration directly align with the mission of Exodus. I am very honored to now practice law by serving the Exodus community.

4. What languages do you speak?

I am fluent in English and Spanish. I also studied French and have some basic conversational French-speaking skills.

5. What’s one thing you wish more people knew about refugees and other forcibly displaced populations?

Accepting refugees is not only indubitably beneficial to protecting their livelihood, but studies show that refugees enhance the welfare of their receiving countries as well by quickly becoming productive members of society and integrating into the work force.

6. What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love spending time with my husband and daughter Elena, travelling and thrift shopping (it’s the thrill of the bargain).