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This Nigerian-Canadian Aspiring Lawyer is Dedicated to Righting his Wrongs



Meet Nigerian-Canadian aspiring lawyer Ish Aderonmu who is sharing his story of how he paid a price for making a huge mistake, how he’s retracing his steps, and hopes his story can be a window for other young people building a life after a criminal conviction.

Ish was determined to improve the financial situation of his family when they moved to Philadelphia. This led him to buy and “source marijuana for a few friends.” On January 2010, he was arrested. He was charged with “Possession with Intent to Deliver a Controlled Substance”, criminal conspiracy, criminal use of a communication facility, and possession of a controlled substance.

Read his full story below:

Born in Nigeria, my family immigrated to Canada when I was 3. Beginning in Winnipeg, we moved 8 times over 10 years, as my parents sought to improve our lot, finally settling in Philad­elphia. I had little guidance regarding careers or pathways to success. I witnessed only hard work to make ends meet, but my family was always scraping by. Determined to improve my situation, I launched businesses that brought in revenue with little need for capital. I saw an opportunity to source marijuana for a few friends. A few months later, in January ’10, I was arrested. My bail was set at a whopping $200,000.

I pleaded guilty to “Possession with Intent to Deliver a Controlled Substance” and was sentenced to 6-23 months house-arrest plus 2-years of probation. The judge informed me that there may be immigration conseq­uences stemming from my plea, however, my lawyer asserted that the District Attorney had confirmed the plea would not affect my status. On the spot, I decided to continue. Unfort­unately, the District Attorney had no jurisd­iction over immigration, a fact I would learn the hard way.

Despite being a model citizen following my plea, in Jan ’12 ICE agents arrested me. I was imprisoned for forty-five days, awaiting a hearing. While incarc­erated, I researched my own case and discovered a way to end my incarc­eration. I was granted Voluntary Departure and was escorted by ICE agents to the Peace Bridge. I walked into Canada, alone. For years I struggled with the trauma of being imprisoned, uprooted and losing my sense of self.

Seeking meaning, I plunged into 2018, forging a transf­ormational year. I resigned from my job and reflected on my life and its purpose. I realized that I wanted to make my experiences matter, that I wanted to help other people in margin­alized situations rise to their potential, and in the process, find mine. This past year, I have forged relati­onships across the legal community and embarked on my advocacy journey.

A law degree will empower me to dedicate my full energy to shaping a legal system that affords everyone equitable access to justice; a mission that can only be achieved if the legal profession itself becomes more diverse, inclusive and accessible.

Photo Credit: IshAderonmu

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