Monica Navarro

Attorney Monica Navarro arrived in Michigan in 1990 as a law student, newly enrolled at the University of Michigan. Twenty years later, she is raising three children and teaching law full-time as an associate professor. Navarro, who hails from a coastal town in Colombia, first landed in Miami in 1984, two months shy of her 18th birthday. Not speaking a word of English and having immigrated alone, she rented a room from a Colombian family and enrolled in community college. “I came looking for opportunity, and to broaden my horizons and go to school,” Navarro says. “Starting over in a new country is not easy. There’s separation from your family, a new language. It’s definitely not for the lazy or the faint of heart. The people who are willing to do all that, it truly is a process that attracts the best of the best. They come here because they want to do the best for their families.” By 1990 she had a degree in political science from Florida International University. A generous financial aid package from U-M, and the law school’s conscious commitment to admitting women, made it an easy choice. After graduation, Navarro embarked on a federal clerkship in Michigan’s Eastern District. She started a family and soon took a position with a boutique firm, Frank, Stefani, Haron and Hall (now Frank, Haron and Weiner), specializing in health law and complex business litigation. Navarro rose to partner at the firm, practicing health law litigation. She also began teaching as an adjunct professor at Thomas M. Cooley Law School; last year, she accepted a full-time position with the school as an associate professor. She remains special counsel to her firm. Navarro says she is typical of other immigrants, who come to the United States knowing they must work hard to excel. “I don’t think I’m exceptional, I think I’m as hardworking as the people who came before me,” she adds. “What set me apart is education. I wanted it and I got it and I was able to do something with it. When the opportunities came to me I was prepared for them. And I had the work ethic that I brought with me and that I think many Hispanics bring with them. “I think the defining characteristics of immigrants are what has always made this country great,” she adds. “We have always attracted that self-selected group of very, very bright and/or very, very hardworking. It’s important they get integrated into the economy so they can continue that upwardly mobile momentum. It behooves us to ensure that immigrants fulfill their potential and carry forward that momentum that brought them here.”

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