I became interested in working for American Gateways after I spoke with an attorney who was presenting a Know Your Rights session to individuals from the undocumented community and allies. Growing up surrounded by those who are struggling with matters of documentation and citizenship status, I wanted to gather the tools and knowledge in helping my family and friends. I understood that the only way to do so was by educating myself on the issue of immigration and the laws that might be preventing my family from prospering in the United States.
After expressing my desire to work alongside the staff and attorneys, immediately American Gateways welcomed me with open arms and allowed me to come on board as an intern. My first weeks on call where filled with both anger and frustration as I saw with my own two eyes the struggles that asylum seekers and migrants experience while crossing the border. I was lucky enough to be given a variety of tasks that approached our organization’s mission in a variety of ways. I was able to translate powerful personal statements, to visiting the detention center where migrant families are being separated and held under ICE custody. I was not ready for the overwhelming sensations that filled me the times I visited these centers. Seeing these families separated from their children and significant others made me realize how privileged my family’s immigrant experience was, in comparison to those who are currently under custody. Even though my feelings while at the center were mixed with anger and sadness, I was also able to have heartwarming conversations and even shared some laughs with these children and women.
I expressed my interest of one day becoming an immigration lawyer, and American Gateways gave me the opportunity to attend court and experience first-hand the intensity of an asylum-seeking hearing, as well as the process an attorney takes in representing their case and clients. In comparison to the migrants who were at the detention centers, these individuals were filled with hope as they reached for freedom. This opportunity made me realize how much I enjoyed being present in the court, and the overwhelming sense of responsibility it brought me. The attorney who I was shadowing even allowed me to do “intake” and other important paperwork in getting the case set up. Thus, allowing me to see the “behind the scenes” work that lawyers are doing.
Currently, my city of San Antonio has been a destination point for many migrants and asylum seekers because we are close to the many detention centers and the national border. San Antonio receives about 200-300 individuals on the daily, who are in desperate need of flight tickets to their final destination, meals, clothing, shelter, and even medical assistance. Which is my the City of San Antonio set up a center where we are providing the aid these individuals need American Gateways saw this as an opportunity to provide these migrants with an overview of their rights and important court hearing and ICE dates. After much consideration, the staff placed me as the one responsible to recruit and train individuals in order to go help out in the center. I enjoy this project because I have complete autonomy of my tasks and responsibilities. At times, I am the only one making sure that all 200 individuals receive training of their rights. Beyond this, I am able to come face-to-face with the people I’m helping, instead of looking through a screen or doing paperwork. All while having the ability to occasionally help these people out with meals or any other service they might need.
My time at American Gateways has been a mixture of feelings. At times, I notice myself becoming tired and stressed, but I remind myself to take a moment and step back. I am only one person who can do so much. I remind myself that even if I am just meeting with one person, I am still changing their life for the better. And that’s what keeps me going every day.