Taylor Faranda '12 and Aaron Korthuis '12
Seattle lawyers defend the rights of immigrants
Taylor Faranda and Aaron Korthuis, both '12, didn't always know they wanted to work in immigration law. But during their time at Whitworth, studying and then working in Central America, and in law school, the couple developed a growing awareness and concern for the challenges that immigrants face in the United States. Today, they are working in Seattle and, as Faranda says, "using their legal skill sets to make the world a more just place as best we can."
Faranda, a former Whitworth double major in cross-cultural studies and Spanish and a graduate of the University of Connecticut School of Law, is a staff attorney at Kids in Need of Defense. Her work involves helping immigrant youth obtain immigration status in the United States, usually by helping them to seek asylum or a special form of immigrant status if they have been abandoned or mistreated by a parent. Korthuis is a staff attorney for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project where he focuses on federal litigation, seeking to defend immigrants' rights, defend them against removal, and overturn unlawful government policies. A former Whitworth political science major and Spanish minor, Korthuis graduated from Yale Law School.
The following is a Q&A in which Korthuis and Faranda share about the experiences and values that inform their work.
How did your time abroad through Whitworth's Central America Study & Service Program help shape your career paths?
Korthuis: CASP played an influential role, as it helped me to more fully appreciate my learning in the classroom about the history of U.S. involvement in Central America and the factors that lead people to immigrate. CASP in turn opened the doors to more time in Central America after Whitworth, when I worked for the Association for a More Just Society in Honduras on efforts to reform the country's police and legal system. I also lived with a Honduran family for the two years I was there, and this time in Central America before law school made me much more deeply appreciate the violence and other challenges that lead people to flee their homes and seek a better life elsewhere.
Faranda: CASP certainly changed the trajectory of my life because our travels in Central America helped me to more deeply understand the painful realities of U.S. colonialism in the region, which continues to manifest today, and I decided I wanted to work in international relations, focused on Latin America. But before law school, when we worked with the Association for a More Just Society, I was inspired by the work of Honduran lawyers making systemic change and using their legal skills to challenge corrupt institutions. I decided pursuing a specific skill set of law would better prepare me to actually do something about the injustices I witnessed and knew were ongoing.
How did Whitworth help prepare you both for law school?
Korthuis: Whitworth helped me in at least two ways. First, it fostered my growth as a person, equipping me to me a better learner, listener and thinker. Second, Whitworth also provided me with technical skills – especially by honing my writing skills – that are essential to success in law school.
Faranda: I am a critical thinker, a strong writer and open-minded. I think Whitworth fostered those skills in me, which are key to the legal field.
How does your faith influence your work?
Korthuis: The biblical mandates regarding care and justice for immigrants inform the work I do. Deuteronomy 10:18-19, which notes how God loves and provides for the "foreigner" and commands us to do the same, is a good example. In addition, I think it is equally clear that Christians have an obligation to seek justice for the oppressed and those who are systematically disadvantaged, and that is true for most noncitizens in this country.
Faranda: My faith is continually being redefined in a way I believe is healthy and warranted – one in which I follow the message of love that Christ embodied rather than messages of hate, exclusion and fear. My greatest hope is that my work – as an immigrant rights attorney but also as a co-worker, partner, friend and daughter – would exude a message of love and acceptance.
What do you find most meaningful or rewarding about your work?
Korthuis: I take a lot of inspiration from my clients, who have overcome adversities and disadvantages that I will never have to face. I also enjoy my colleagues and am inspired by their work.
Faranda: I hope that each person I work with leaves their interactions with me feeling dignified, respected and valued and that ultimately my work can be a stepping stone to a life of safety and peace.