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Michael Hsu ’11: Rising Star Award

  • Michael Hsu '11

Michael Hsu was presented the Rising Star Award at the 2018 Distinguished Honors ceremony.

These are his edited remarks from that event.

“I was undocumented when I started law school at Lewis & Clark in 2008, with little exposure to the legal community. My one experience with a lawyer was a scam. My mother had hired an attorney hoping to obtain a green card for me. She paid him thousands of dollars, and months later, she discovered he had not filed any of the paperwork and his office was vacant. She never reported the incident out of fear that we would be deported.

I was able to attend law school due in large part to a generous Dean’s Scholarship. As a law student, I lived in a 250-square-foot studio and ate a ramen-based diet. A scholarship from the Oregon State Bar helped to pay for the bar exam but when I disclosed my undocumented status, they withdrew my scholarship. I had to study for the bar exam without a formal prep course, and, miraculously, I passed it anyway.

However, days after I received that good news, I was sitting in my room in tears: I had just learned that the bar would not be swearing me in with my classmates because it was conducting a character and fitness investigation due to my immigration status.

To the Oregon State Bar’s credit, it did admit me on June 8, 2012. I’ve been told that makes me the first undocumented person in America to have become an attorney. In November of that year, the Metropolitan Public Defenders hired me and fulfilled my dream of becoming a trial attorney.

I finally obtained my green card in February 2017, after living as an undocumented immigrant for 22 years. That May, I was appointed by Governor Brown to serve on the Oregon Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision.

Having been called an ‘illegal’ for most of my life, it feels surreal to receive the Rising Star Award from my law school. This is an honor, not just as an acknowledgment of my achievements, but also as encouragement for me to do more for the public in the future.”

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