This internship is not just a legal internship. The work that I do is primarily focused on cases or policy: researching precedential decisions of the BIA or current Georgia human trafficking law, helping with client affidavits, and doing client intakes. However, like at any nonprofit organization, each person plays many roles. I've also had the opportunity to act as an advocate, translator, and faith-based outreach coordinator. Each of these smaller roles within my larger role has informed how I conduct my research and legal work, but more importantly has given me a much broader sense of the field of immigration law.
An advocate is someone who helps our clients on a much larger scale. These are individuals with a background in social work who help connect our clients with shelter, work, counseling, interpretation services, childcare, and legal services. They typically work at domestic violence shelters or other nonprofit organizations, and act as a central hub for those leaving violence. Many times, advocates accompany our clients to meetings and appointments. Not all of our clients come to us with advocates, especially if they're referred straight from law enforcement or legal aid organizations. In those cases, we try to connect them with advocates, but also have to act as their advocate ourselves. I've accompanied one of our Spanish-speaking clients to her meetings with her volunteer attorneys, and also accompanied another potential client to the police station to get her U-visa certification. I enjoy when I take on the role of an advocate because it allows me to take a step back from the text in the statute and meet people who are affected by the words we write.
In addition, I also act as an interpreter for our Spanish-speaking clients. This part of my job is one of the most rewarding, because learning Spanish has meant so much to me, and I see what a difference it makes for our clients who can now be heard and understood. For some clients, this is one of the first times that they get to tell their story in their first language. I was working on an affidavit for a client that she had written completely in Spanish, adn I had to add notes from our interview, but also translate the entire affidavit into English. This process was extremely draining, because I'm processing all of the violence she experienced in her first language and in my own. I find clients' stories to be most powerful in their first language because there are some phrases that simply cannot be translated. I can search and search for the English words, but there are times that English simply doesn't cut it.
Finally, I'm calling my final role "faith-based outreach coordinator". My faith is an integral part of my life, and an important part of why I want to work in immigration. It's also an asset. Immigration and human trafficking are two issues at the forefront of churches across the country. This summer, I've worked to build connections between GAIN and churches around Atlanta to help raise awareness of our services, but also how people around Atlanta can become involved and volunteer with us. My faith establishes a baseline of love and compassion for everyone. With this foundation, I can tell people about the impact that GAIN is making in the community and what working here has meant to me. The opportunity to have a small part in reaching out to others to talk about why they should be involved as well is just one small way that I have tried to give back to GAIN what they have given to me.
So as I run around Atlanta to interfaith events, client meetings, or the library, I'm so thankful for the opportunity to work with amazing attorneys and clients, and to play all kinds of roles to support them. Each of these roles independently is crucial, and I'm so thankful for the chance to be a part of all of them, and to get a larger sense of working in immigration law. It only motivates me more to join this amazing field, with people from all different academic and social backgrounds, dedicated to welcoming our neighbors.