Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
Leticia Hernández is an intern at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) in Seattle, where she assists in providing legal aid to indigent immigrants by pursuing and defending their legal status.
July 1, 2013
After wrapping up my mid-summer review with one of the supervising attorneys here at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, she asks for a reflection of how I feel thus far, am I handling the workload fine? Have any questions or concerns? My response to her is, "How I wish I had more hands." In other words, how I wish there were more of us doing this type of work.
My time so far at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project has been enlightening to say the very least. Being able to assist and empower clients who would normally not receive any legal support is truly essential and is in high demand. My first couple of days on the job, I felt as if I were floating on clouds. I would come in, sit in my assigned cubicle, and look through my cases. I was finally here doing what "real" attorneys do. I let that sink in very slowly. I AM an attorney in the making, handling real cases, real people, real stories; all around me everything was very real! And then it hit me — bang, bang — the exorbitant amount of responsibility that was suddenly placed upon me from every angle. I felt as if I had suddenly been attacked by massive acupuncture needles on all parts of my body — then as I slowly began to regain sensation, from my first intake to the filing of my first case, it all unfolded before me.
She grasps my hand firmly with very rough, calloused hands and thanks me for meeting with her and her children today. I say, "The pleasure is mine," and after an exchange of introductions we proceed to the intake room. I explain to her what my role as a legal intern is and that my goal is to take her case, move it forward, and get it filed before her U visa expires (U nonimmigrant visas are granted to victims of crime as a form of temporary relief from being placed in deportation proceedings). After some dialogue and building up the client's trust, she begins to open up and shares her story with me. She, like my very own family, worked hard all her life as a farm worker in the fields to support her children. She recounts stories of pain and sacrifice that she endured to be able to provide for her three children. During harvest season, she tells me that she would only sleep 30 minutes per day because she was working around the clock. I ask how she managed and her response: "I had boxes and boxes of Red Bull in my trunk."
Towards the end of our conversation, she tears up and I could sense, almost slice through, her deep guilt as she shares with me the crime that she and her three children were subjugated to. At some point during the intake interview, something inside me broke and I understood why it was that this type of work is precisely what fuels my soul and gives me strength to pursue the rights of those most vulnerable and affected by injustices and abuse. Here before me sat a woman so fragile yet filled with the strength and power of a majestic being. Sadly though she had been beaten over and over again by the various oppressive forces that dominate and continually alienate marginalized communities. I have 10 other cases which might seem similar in their storyline (this should also be very telling) but offer their own uniqueness filled with different strengths, obstacles, and journeys.
Legal advocacy is a journey that must be taken one step at a time. Passion is a compass that points you forward. I knew from an early onset that immigration work is what I was most passionate about and my time with NWIRP has only fueled that fire. NWIRP is a chain where more hands are definitely encouraged to link on and strive for justice for all.