Sophia Gurulé: The Bronx Defender


Zach Taylor, Staff Writer, Video Editor

Ever since her high school years spent debating in the classroom, Saint Joe graduate Sophia Gurulé has always held strong to the ideas she believes in. Now, instead of questioning the ideas of her peers, she questions the federal immigration policy as she fights for the rights of immigrants and defends people who have been incarcerated by ICE and are at risk of being deported.

The first spark for Gurulé’s journey to become an attorney happened at Saint Joe. Sophia  was in touch with politics at a young age, and had a firmer grasp of her principles and ideals than many of her peers. This led her to frequently debate many of these peers during her high school years, especially during Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008, when she was a senior. Gurulé recounted that “I used to wear an Obama pin…people would literally stop me in the hallways to debate with me about his policies, so I got really good at thinking on my feet”.

That was what I was known for doing, arguing with people a lot

— Sophia Gurulé

Despite this exposure to politics and debating, Gurulé had the dream of becoming a filmmaker during high school. She was a part of the Film Club at Saint Joe and was inspired by Mr. DePauw, the club proctor and her soccer coach. Though she pursued this dream through most of her time at Saint Joe, her focus began to change as she neared graduation. She attributes Mr. Kuharic as the main cause of her shift in focus as he pointed out to Gurulé that she excelled at debating and should look into it more. This comment set off a series of events in Gurulé’s life that led to her becoming the attorney she is today.

After graduating from Saint Joe in 2008, Gurulé began studying International Studies, Latin American/Latino Studies, and Spanish Studies at Fordham University in New York. After undergraduate school, Gurulé expressed that “I was really tired of school, to be honest, and wanted to just exist in the world outside of school”. She ended up taking two years off between undergrad and law school, which she spent working and gaining experience as a trial paralegal in New York.

Gurulé returned to school in 2014 and began at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, where she studied in the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic and the Criminal Defense Clinic. She also participated in internships doing justice projects over the summers and held various leadership positions during her time at Cardozo. In 2017, she graduated and was ready to take on the world.

Today, Gurulé works hard at The Bronx Defenders as a staff attorney and policy counsel in the Immigration Practice. As policy counsel, Gurulé helps educate people on current immigration policy, meets with federal elected officials, and testifies at city hall to discuss immigration policy and how it can be changed for the better. Most recently, Gurulé put together immigration policy priorities that the Biden administration should implement.

She is also a staff attorney in “the first public defender program for detained immigrants in deportation proceedings”, also known as the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP). As a staff attorney, she works closely with detained people and their families to advocate for their release from ICE detention and to fight their deportation in court. She frequently talks with those who she is representing, whether it be the family or the detained person themselves. Before Covid-19, Gurulé was able to actually travel to detention centers and jails to meet in person. Over her relatively short time as an attorney, she has been able litigate on many different levels of court, even up to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

One of Gurulé’s most difficult cases she had to work was representing Ousman Darboe, who had been detained by ICE for over 3 years. When he was only 6 years old, Darboe’s family immigrated to the United States. Later on in life he became stuck in what is known as the prison-to-deportation pipeline. More about Ousman Darboe’s story can be found in this article from Vox:

On September 28, 2020, Mr. Darboe was finally freed from ICE detention and reunited with his family in the Bronx. Gurulé attributes his release to the overwhelming support Darboe gained from various community organizations, such as the Black Lines for Just Immigration, MPower Change, Release Aging People in Prison, and even the New York Giants, as well as the support of several New York elected officials.

ICE is so terrible that the only way to get him out would be through all of these different other things, not just litigating, but organizing media.

— Sophia Gurulé

Gurulé works hard every day trying to reform immigration policy and help those who are vulnerable, but is there anything that Saint Joe students can do to help? Yes, students can help with this mission, too! La Casa de Amistad is an organization in South Bend that students can volunteer with the local migrant community. Their website can be found here: Being informed and educating others is also a great way combatting injustice and Gurulé emphasized the importance of being politically active in your community.