Reflecting on my experience as a research intern for TRII, what have I confirmed about social justice work is the difficulty of doing nonprofit work in the field of immigration law. In this field, the majority of the attorneys are working pro bono, while the regulations are changing rapidly, and there is a massive surplus of immigrant clients. Especially during the COVID-19 period, government regulation regarding the asylum application was tightened up to an extreme level. For example, my current research task is focused on how COVID-19 has created a public health issue for asylum-seekers.
This is only one of many examples showing the vulnerability of the immigrant community. The workload of social justice groups has been increasing, while the working capability of ours has also been affected negatively by the pandemic. For example, since the outbreak, TRII has shifted much of its focus to the housing crisis in immigrant communities. Many of the undocumented immigrants are facing the risk of being kicked out of the house by their landlords.
My experience as an intern for TRII has been a positive one, but my contribution has also been limited by multiple factors. First, doing everything virtually has limited my interaction with clients and coworkers in the workplace. With all the courts delaying opening, many of the cases the institute was working on were frozen. Therefore, I have not been doing what I originally expected to do, including getting in-person experience observing lawyers dealing with immigration cases. Second, because I am not a professionally-accredited immigration case representative, my participation in specific cases has been limited. Without the pandemic, I would possibly have been able to shadow more client meetings. But, with the pandemic going on, I could not directly help as many clients as I intended.
If I were to give advice to people who are interested in immigration law or social work in general, I think whoever wants to get involved in this field should be aware of the difficulties and frustration you would encounter. The reality and the future of the field are not the brightest looking forward, but this is also where the help is most needed. With more restricted legislation and funding, representing clients and winning cases is becoming more difficult. In order to get the best out of the internship experience, you should be careful when choosing what kind of organization for your internship. Nonprofit organizations in the field of immigration law focus on different aspects of immigration laws. For example, some organizations specialize in public health and some specialize in women’s rights. Therefore, choose an organization that best matches with your interests.
As I am wrapping up my internship, this experience makes me believe that I want to continue to work in the field of public and social policy. I am planning on going to law school, and when I become a lawyer, I can better serve social justice causes in communities that need the most help.