Antonio Lopez Maldonado seizes every opportunity on path to immigration law

Junior political science student Antonio Lopez Maldonado, known as Toni to his friends and peers, is carving a path toward a future in immigration law, fueled by his personal experiences and a passion for making a difference. Antonio Lopez Maldonado

Maldonado's passion for the legal field and advocacy for immigrants is deeply personal. Having immigrated from Guanajuato, Mexico, to the United States at nine-years-old, he has a profound appreciation for the importance of immigration lawyers.  

"Growing up, lawyers were kind of like my superheroes because they always knew what to say and do. That experience is a big reason why I want to help others," Maldonado said.  

 However, Maldonado’s decision to attend college was not easy as he had to navigate the challenges of being a first-generation college student.  

“It’s a challenge to get into college because it's new to everyone around you, not just your parents”, Maldonado said. “Lacking that support system can feel very isolating to know sometimes, and you don’t know what's going on or who to ask for help.” 

However, Maldonado’s experience was forever changed after attending a Cardinal View event at Lamar University.  
“Dr. Hector Flores has been a huge mentor of mine. I met him at Cardinal View, and he let me know about the Smith-Hutson Scholarship, which was for students of low resources and you did not have to have a 4.0 to qualify,” Maldonado said. “It was the perfect scholarship for me, so having a conversation with them and being at Lamar and seeing other students with similar stories as me was huge. I don't think I would be here without that opportunity.” 
Now, Maldonado has a rich academic life where he holds the title Vice President of the Lamar University Student Government Association for the 2023-2024 academic year. In this role, he attended Texas State University System Board of Regents meetings and was elected Vice Chair of the Student Advisory Board, representing over 88,000 students across the state. He is also a member of the Reaud Honors College and is an officer in LU’s Hispanic Society.  

"A lot of where my drive comes from, comes from being an immigrant,” Maldonado said. “I always was told that I couldn't do this, and I couldn't do that. Whether it be for the language barrier, or that the job was just too hard for me, but every time someone told me that I couldn't do something, I did it. I took that on as a challenge. That's my state of mind and those experiences that shaped me into who I am." 

Maldonado has also secured many high-profile internships including one at Duke School of Law where he joined 21 other students from across the country.  
“When I was at Duke, my imposter syndrome was through the roof, because it's a big, huge, beautiful campus. It's one of the top law schools and there were people from Ivy League schools,” Maldonado said. “But I noticed that I could stand my ground like the other students, and that felt really good because I came from a school that like no one knew.”  

Maldonado is not only heavily involved at LU but also a dedicated public servant. He served as a voter registrar for a gubernatorial campaign, using his knowledge and skills to engage in the democratic process. Additionally, he volunteered with HPAC to lead the "Majority Votes" voting drive, targeting minority groups, and encouraging them to participate actively in the democratic process. 
“I did it in high school and you get to see our constitutional rights in action. And suddenly I wanted to keep that going, so I did it in college as well,” Maldonado said. “A large part of my job was just getting people registered, specifically here in university. So, I went around knocking on doors, getting out pamphlets and talking. I learned a lot and I got thicker skin being out there and putting myself out there and standing up for what I believed in.” 
Additionally, Maldonado works as a legal assistant for the Packard LaPray in Beaumont after being connected to the firm through an LU professor where he gets a first-hand look at how lawyers affect the lives of clients.  
“Whenever you're learning about cases at school and how the process works, it’s a term that you have to know for your test. But working in a law firm humanizes the process and you realize that your work does impact someone's life. It's not just you making a living,” Maldonado said.  

Although Maldonado is uncertain which law school he will ultimately choose, he is certain that he will seize every opportunity available to him.  

“I know I cannot take every opportunity for granted. I had the mindset growing up, and I still do now. So, every time an opportunity comes up, I see the possibilities. I don't take that for granted.”