Since she was a small child, Jessica Smith Bobadilla was interested in the world. A native of Fresno, California, her parents had diverse immigrant backgrounds which significantly shaped all aspects of her life. Her paternal grandparents migrated to Fresno following the Armenian Genocide (1915 – 1918) at the end of the Ottoman Empire. Her paternal grandmother, Nevart, was a strong influence, having migrated first to Mexico where Jessica’s grandfather, Manoog, also migrated in order to marry her. Due to various immigration-related factors, Manoog’s surname was changed from Kouyoumjian (or Kouymjian,) to Smith. Many Armenians also felt pressure to Americanize their surnames due to the obvious difficulty English speakers experienced while attempting to pronounce them. Legal and societal discrimination against the Armenian refugees and their children in Central California were also huge factors contributing to their ultimate decision to change their surnames in large numbers.
Nevart’s family had experienced a dramatic transformation in Mexico, arriving as refugees and finding safe haven as well as religious freedom there. Nevart’s brother, Kisag Avakian, became the owner of Hotel Caesar in Tijuana in the 1940s. Kisag boosted the hotel into a landmark destination where famous visitors from the United States and Mexico would come to vacation. The world-famous Caesar Salad was invented by the founder Cesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant, whose family were the owners until Kisag purchased the hotel. A large part of Jessica’s family resides in Mexico to this day, celebrating the union of their mixed Armenian and Mexican cultural roots. Jessica’s cousin, Gibelee Avakian, grew up in Mexico, and apart from being a talented chef is a Legal Assistant with the firm, and may be the first person you speak with if you call the office. Jessica and Gibelee are currently studying Armenian together virtually with a teacher currently in Armenia to try to connect more with their roots, as well as to honor the legacy of Armenian Genocide survivors like their grandparents Kisag and Nevart, who were brother and sister.
On the other side of her family, Jessica’s maternal grandparents were born in the United States, their heritage stemming from the immigrant communities of Sicilian/Italian and Irish roots. Her great grandfather, Bartolo Randazzo, worked in the well-known C&H Sugar Factory located in Crockett, California. Upon retirement, he and his wife Sarina moved to the Easton, California area to farm grapes. Jessica’s own parents met while both students at California State University, Fresno. In a happy twist of fate, members of both their families already knew each other when they met in college through the agricultural community in Fresno, solidifying their bond.
Having grown up in the culturally diverse Tower District of Fresno and excelling in academics, Jessica was accepted into prestigious Edison Computech/Edison High for the duration of her middle school and high school career. She attended college at UC Berkeley, graduating with High Honors and High Distinction in General Scholarship. Following college, she attended UC Hastings where she was a member of the editorial board of the Hastings International and Comparative Law Review and completed a concentration in international law. She completed a dual degree in Law and International Affairs. The law degree was granted by UC Hastings and the Master’s by Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.
Jessica worked for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) as a Consultant after graduating from Columbia and visited Haiti for an evaluation of Crisis and Post-Conflict responses within the UN system. During her time in law school and at Columbia, she also completed externships at the Inter-American Development Bank, Human Rights Watch. The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Jessica Smith Bobadilla has practiced immigration law since 2002; her firm The Law Office of Jessica Smith Bobadilla, A PLC, was established in 2007. Jessica was the Director of the New American Legal Clinic at San Joaquin College of Law from 2013 to 2016 after serving as the Legal Director from 2012 to 2013. While a professor at San Joaquin College of Law, she taught courses in both domestic and international-related legal topics at the law school such as Criminal Law, Immigration Law and Policy, Immigration Appellate Writing, and Human Rights Law. In addition, from the years 2009 to 2018, Jessica was a Consulting Attorney with the Consulate of Mexico. She has also worked with the Marjorie Mason Center in Fresno, assisting immigrant domestic violence survivors with their cases. Jessica departed from San Joaquin College of Law in 2016 to work with two Bay Area non-profits in delivering grant-based services to adults with children in asylum proceedings.
From 2017 to 2018 she was a Senior Fellow in the immigration program of Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto (CLSEPA). In 2019, Jessica was selected to the Immigrant Affairs Committee of the City of Fresno. Throughout her career, she has mentored countless students and is particularly devoted to helping the children of her former clients advance in their ambitions and education as well as DREAMERS, and including other young members of the community, particularly in the Central Valley. Jessica proudly served as pro bono counsel to several Fresno State DREAMERS, the majority of whom later received DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
Jessica has argued before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on several occasions. She has prevailed in several Ninth and Tenth Circuit appellate cases, and secured attorney’s fees in some cases from the Department of Justice for her representation of clients in meritorious claims that were originally denied. In all of these cases, her clients had previously received inadequate or ineffective assistance from a former attorney and were close to removal. Jessica secured new hearings for her clients, which alleviated the threat of deportation or removal. Jessica continues to oversee operations at her firm and personally defends clients in court to this day.