Heather R. Yountz became a lawyer because she wanted to be a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves. She also wanted to work with people from all over the world. She’s found her niche as an immigration attorney, providing valuable aid to those hit hardest by the Trump administration’s controversial immigration policies.
Yountz says her proudest professional achievement was helping reunite a Guatemalan woman with her 5-year-old daughter after the two were separated in an Arizona detention center while seeking asylum from domestic abuse. The mother, Angelica Gonzalez-Garcia, posted bond, but her daughter was sent to a shelter in Texas. Yountz, her firm and the ACLU sprang into action, challenging the continued separation in court. The family was reunited in early July.
“When Angelica dropped to the ground and took her daughter into her arms, it was one of the most powerful moments in my life,” Yountz says. “I feel bad even saying I lost sleep and cried over this case because what I experienced was nothing compared to what Angelica experienced. But as a mother, it was impossible not to be moved by it.”
Yountz was also part of the group of attorneys that rushed to Logan Airport in 2017 when customs officers started detaining travelers pursuant to Trump’s travel ban. She was with her young son at an immigration rights march in downtown Boston when colleague Susan B. Church called to tell her what was happening. At the airport, she and Church were able to identify plaintiffs and file for a restraining order, which they and two other attorneys argued that night and which was granted at 2 a.m. the next morning.
“This order impacted individuals trapped in airports all over the world,” says Yountz. “Our order had a directive to let people onto planes to Boston if their only reason for being denied a flight was this executive order.”
The battles on this issue continue. In response, Yountz, who is acutely aware that more people like her are needed to protect immigrants in a turbulent time, has helped launch a project to train other young attorneys to join the fight.