Today was a good day. With the constant influx of bad news and negative outcomes for our clients, it seems rare that we have a good day. But today was one of them.
During my time at GAIN, I have come to love client interactions. This is funny to me because when I started, the thought of speaking with clients absolutely terrified me. The thought of speaking with clients in Spanish especially terrified me because I haven't used my Spanish in conversation since I graduated from college. Today, I did both of those things.
I have mostly been working on asylum cases since I started working at GAIN but today was the first day working with the Victims of Violence team. The Victims of Violence program assists clients in applying for U-visas, T-visas, and VAWA**. I had the opportunity to sit in on a client meeting and assist the couple in filling out their forms. The couple was from Honduras and had fled to the United States to escape persecution in their home country. They were victims of an armed robbery here in the United States. A man broke into their apartment and robbed the couple at gunpoint while their four younger children were home.
I was able to speak with the couple (in Spanish!) about their time in the United States. They told me that they had been here for five years and were hoping to learn English. They asked me about school and if I wanted to work permanently with GAIN. In those moments, I felt so connected to them through our shared language. When I learned Spanish, I had no idea that I could feel this type of bond just because I could communicate with someone. But every time I speak or hear Spanish, I feel drawn in. Being able to use this connection along with my legal skills to help people who are so worthy is something that I never want to stop doing.
One thing that has struck me in every client interaction I've been in is the pure gratitude expressed by the clients. Every single person that has come into the office has praised the team and told us how thankful they are for our assistance. Their emotions and expressions are so authentic that it makes me think I had never seen what real gratitude looked like until I saw it on the faces of our clients. Despite the horror stores they've shared with us, they have all been so genuinely kind and even joyful.
I hate that society views immigrants through the lens of violence and crime. I hate that I had those preconceived notions even when I started at GAIN. As I meet more and more clients, I feel tethered to their stories and their causes. I realize that these people are the most deserving of compassion and the benefit of the doubt. Whenever we get bad news, I will hold on to these thoughts. I will think of the faces of those we are helping to remind myself to keep going and keep fighting because they deserve every bit of energy I have.
** Victims of Violence terms:
U-visa: Clients may apply for a visa to remain the United States if they have been a victim of crime within the US.
T-visa: Clients may apply for a visa to remain in the United States if they have been a victim of any kind of trafficking (sex or labor trafficking).
VAWA: Clients may apply for a visa to remain in the United States if they have been victimized in the United States by a United States citizen (usually involves cases of domestic violence where the spouse or child is a US citizen).