(3) Do what you love

It has been quite a fulfilling experience interning with The Right to Immigration Institute (TRII) this summer. I’ve not only been immersed in immigration law, but I’ve had an opportunity to witness the law in action and learn more about the world of work. In addition to feeling much more prepared to take on the challenge of law school and hit the ground running, I have continued to build on soft skills like communication, self-accountability, and work-life balance in preparation for life beyond college.

One of the most important things that I have learned this summer is the importance of developing and nurturing soft skills, such as those mentioned above. A person’s ability to complete a job isn’t necessarily defined by their experience or qualifications, but rather by their ability to adapt, effectively communicate, and hold themselves accountable in terms of asking for help and managing deadlines. In the world of social justice, this is especially important, as clients put their lives in the hands of their attorneys, accredited representatives, and/or advocates.

In terms of the impact that I have had on TRII, I believe that just by participating in the first cohort of trainees to become accredited representatives helped to pave the way for advancing the program for future trainees. Having the opportunity to participate in a six-month program tailored to undergraduate students who want experience in the legal field is incredibly rare; what is even more rare, at least on the undergraduate level, is the opportunity to work alongside professional attorneys who are passionate about devoting their extra time and energy to bettering the skills of those who intern alongside them. While working on cases, I have been encouraged numerous times to take the lead on client meetings, file paperwork, or write client affidavits, on top of legal research. I have deeply appreciated and enjoyed the learning experience working at TRII and the support from our executive director and attorneys, and I plan to continue to intern with the organization until I graduate from Brandeis.

If I were to do it all over again, I’m not sure that there is a lot I would change. I got lucky in the sense that I found the program when I was able to find the time to do the training and to take on an internship doing consistent client work. In terms of advice to those interested in working with TRII or in immigration law in general, I would encourage you to not be afraid to ask all the questions you have. In my opinion, education is the greatest gift in the world, and you won’t learn unless you take an active role.

I am grateful to the World of Work fellowship program for supporting me in my internship with The Right to Immigration Institute this summer. This experience is an important step on my path to becoming a lawyer and the skills I have developed over the course of this internship will no doubt propel me further. Law school, here I come!

(1) The Right to Immigration Institute: Providing Pro Bono Immigration Legal Services

This summer, I’m interning virtually (from my home in Reno, Nevada) with The Right to Immigration Institute (TRII), a non-profit organization based in Waltham, Massachusetts. TRII provides pro bono immigration legal services to non-citizens seeking citizenship, asylum, a green card, or a visa. TRII also provides humanitarian assistance in the form of advocating for clients in housing, employment, and school matters, and referring clients to organizations which specialize in rent assistance, access to warm clothes, and food. In order to reach those in need within the Waltham community, TRII is frequently involved in community outreach (tabling at various community events), popular education, and know-your-rights sessions.

I first learned about TRII at one of Brandeis’s volunteer events at the beginning of the year, where I met some of TRII’s student volunteers who introduced me to the organization. Before I knew it, I had begun a six-month intensive legal training offered by TRII, intended to train those who took it to become certified as Department of Justice Accredited Representatives. In addition to learning about U.S. immigration history, various types of immigration relief, filling out specific immigration forms, court etiquette, legal jargon, and the intimacies of client work, we were broken up into six teams to prepare for an immigration court mock trial to test our skills. About halfway through our training, I had the opportunity to begin working on cases with our executive director and attorneys, which I am continuing to do from home this summer having now completed the training.

At-home office!

My passion for social justice, particularly with regard to TRII, stems not only from my interest in immigration, but from my family’s history. On my mom’s side of the family, we are a family of immigrants; all of my great grandparents immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe to escape the pogroms in the late 1800s. For many like my great grandparents, the U.S. acts as a sanctuary from the persecution and violence in their home countries and provides protection, security, and agency. As someone who is passionate about politics and history, it is my conviction that we are a nation of immigrants, by immigrants, and for immigrants.

That said, while I strongly believe that the U.S. provides a sanctuary to those fleeing persecution, I have also observed that U.S. immigration law makes it incredibly difficult for them to do so. This, on top of the fact that many immigrants are unfamiliar with U.S. culture and customs, and do not speak the language, makes it incredibly difficult for them to get and maintain a job, put food on the table for their families, and adequately provide for their own healthcare. TRII works to guide clients through the immigration system while accounting for the humanitarian aid they need to survive in their new home. In addition to meeting with our clients weekly over months to thoughtfully build their applications, we also ensure they have a place to live in the community and are able to provide for themselves and their families. It is our job to help them navigate a complex and intimidating immigration system and ensure that they feel secure in their new community. It is for these very reasons that I so deeply enjoy working with TRII and providing the assistance we do.

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