“Immigration has not always been about deportation,” says Patricia Corrales ’86, a former Senior Attorney within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). “At the DHS, I worked on complex, high profile denaturalization and national security cases, and worked regularly with members of the Joint Terrorist Task Force. There are always policy changes with every administration. But the greatest and most heartbreaking changes have come from this administration.”
Corrales can be seen providing commentary on past and current immigration policies in a new documentary called "Living Undocumented,” which debuted on Netflix in October 2019. The six-episode series tells the stories of different families impacted by the current "zero tolerance" policy of the Trump Administration.
“The documentary is compelling,” she says. “The real side of what’s happening with our immigration has to be told. You hear the rhetoric, but you don’t see what’s going on with people’s lives.”
Corrales traces her decision to attend law school back to her favorite Mount Saint Mary’s political science professor, Jim Delahanty. “He’s the one that inspired me to become a lawyer. He said, ‘You know how to argue. Go out and make a difference.’”
In college, she was involved in both the Model United Nations and the Women’s Leadership programs. “The Mount fostered the notion that we as women can do so many things,” she says. “Our possibilities are endless.”
After graduating, Corrales attended the University of Colorado at Boulder School of Law and graduated with a JD in 1989. Her first job was as a Deputy District Attorney in the Denver District Attorney's Office.
“When I first joined the District Attorney’s Office, I called Professor Delahanty and told him that I went to law school,” she says. “He was thrilled for me and joyous knowing that one of his students did exactly what he thought she could do.”
In 1995, Corrales moved back to California and joined the former INS. In 2003, INS became the Department of Homeland Security. She was a Senior Attorney for DHS for 17 years. In 2013, Corrales opened up a solo practice (Law Office of Patricia M. Corrales) where she specializes in criminal and immigration defense with an emphasis in complex citizenship cases.
“As a prosecutor, our aim is to do what is just and what is right,” she says. “My passion is immigration. But the realism about immigration is that there’s a difference between the rhetoric we hear and how it truly affects individuals.”