Ricardo Jimenez Solis ’23 is the recipient of the 2023 David A. Grossman Exemplary Clinical Student Award. He is celebrated for his significant contributions to the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC), as a graduate of both the Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Clinic and the Crimmigration Clinic.
The award honors David Grossman ’88, the late clinical professor and faculty director of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau who devoted his life to the pursuit of justice. As his colleagues and friends attest, Grossman was committed to building partnerships within the community, mentoring clinical students, and tirelessly advocating for social change. In Grossman’s memory, this award is presented annually to a student who demonstrates outstanding expertise in representation and policy reform initiatives and shows a clear capacity for thoughtfulness and empathy in their practice.
“I feel honored and humbled to be recognized in a field already filled to the brim with incredible people,” Jimenez Solis says. “I think one of the most extraordinary things about the public interest field is the community of lawyers you get to work with. As an HLS student, I am aware of the incredible work Professor Grossman did during his life, and it would be an honor to be able to continue his mission through the work I hope to do after graduation.”
Since deciding to attend law school, Jimenez Solis has had his sights set on becoming an immigration attorney. When he transferred to HLS as a 2L, he jumped at the chance to join the Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Clinic, eager to connect with members of the community facing immigration-related issues — people with stories similar to his own, as an immigrant to the United States from El Salvador.
“I will never forget the first time I got to work with clients,” he recalls. “That first semester at HIRC solidified my commitment to immigration law. My clients had gone through a lot of challenges in their life before coming to the U.S., yet they still had hope that they could have a better future in the U.S., and they trusted me to help them accomplish this. Their strength and resilience were a tremendous source of inspiration. I don’t think I ever felt more motivated in life than during those moments.”
Jimenez Solis has not only been an exemplary client counselor but has also shown an exceptional ability to tackle complex legal issues. In the Crimmigration Clinic, Jimenez Solis led a notable project seeking reform or the end of the Boston Police Department’s gang database. Having spent his teenage years in East Boston after immigrating to the United States with his family, Jimenez Solis brought a personal perspective to the work, which has a disparate impact on East Boston’s immigrant community. He ultimately drafted a 40-page administrative complaint to the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security arguing that the department’s policies and practices regarding its use of the gang database was discriminatory on the basis of race. His work also led to a positive First Circuit ruling that the methodology of the database is flawed and should not be relied upon in certain circumstances.
During this project, he drafted and revised a request to the Boston Police Department to remove a young Salvadoran man from the gang database, who had erroneously been deported from the U.S. because of his inclusion in the database. Jimenez Solis utilized his Spanish-speaking and writing skills to make sure the young man understood in detail what removal from the data base would mean for his life going forward. In this case and every other that he worked on in the clinic, Jimenez Solis displayed a deep sense of care for his clients while ushering them through difficult legal processes.
“Ricardo is incredibly intelligent, organized, and hard-working,” write nominators clinic director Phil Torrey and clinical instructor Sameer Ahmed. “He methodically breaks down complicated concepts with writing that is well-organized, clear, and concise. He is a team player who is clearly committed to ensuring that our clients’ voices are at the forefront of our work.” This respect for client agency is in the spirit of the award’s namesake, Professor Grossman.
For Jimenez Solis, clinical experiences were a consistent reminder of the power his legal education holds: “As a clinical student, I feel I had the privilege of learning how to actually help people under the guidance of some amazing advocates. I was allowed to take the lead on my projects and figure out for myself what works and what doesn’t, knowing that if I needed guidance my professors’ doors were always open. That being said, pro bono work is not easy, and outside of the high stakes in every single case, there are other things many young attorneys are not prepared for from secondary trauma to burnout, among other issues that are far too common in our field. That is why I feel so thankful to my clinical instructors for taking the time to teach us how to be well-rounded advocates, how to take care of ourselves, how to work with our teammates, and knowing when to reach out for help.”
Jimenez Solis also participated in the Government Lawyer: Attorney General Clinic, where he completed an externship placement in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Criminal Bureau. He spent his summers working with the Committee for Public Counsel Services and the Sixth Amendment Center.
After graduation, Jimenez Solis will continue putting his passion for immigrants’ rights into action; he earned the prestigious Skadden Fellowship, which will support him in representing immigrants to secure their release from detention and obtain immigration relief at the Northeast Justice Center in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
With clear purpose and deep commitment to immigrant advocacy work, Jimenez Solis is determined to continue this work long-term: “I knew when I enrolled in law school that I would become an immigration attorney, and I am incredibly thankful to the Skadden Foundation and the Northeast Justice Center for giving me the opportunity to get started.”
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