This week wraps up my eight-week internship in the Immigration Law Unit at the Legal Aid Society. In my eight weeks, I have completed around 280 hours of immigration work, assisted with around 50 cases, conducted a total of 35 DACA meetings, sent dozens of emails, and thumbed through at least a hundred files. As a result, I have experienced and learned so much.
It has been an absolute privilege to be a part of the Legal Aid Society community this summer. In my eight weeks with the organization, I have been able to work alongside, gain feedback from, and interact with selfless and intelligent attorneys and paralegals. I have completed work that has fulfilled me personally and professionally. Furthermore, I have learned so much about immigration law and about how to mediate between the emotional burden of such work and taking care of myself.
Ironically, I am thankful that I was able to gain this insight during one of the worst periods in our modern-day immigration history. My time with the Legal Aid Society overlapped with many of the recent attacks on immigrants, including the confusion over adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, ICE raids, and President Trump’s new plan to bar Central Americans from receiving asylum. Despite this and the ensuing stress, I have witnessed the unit’s attorneys, staff members, volunteers, and interns continue to work tenaciously to provide the best support to immigrants in need. I now realize that I ultimately want to work with an organization and among individuals who exhibit that unwavering commitment to helping others–even in the face of resistance. Furthermore, I want to be an individual who promotes and inspires these characteristics, as well.
I weigh the value of my internship through the time spent and the work done here. But, beyond that, I prioritize the implications of how my time and work have shaped how I view myself and my surroundings. The biggest take-away from my internship is not the fact that I can fax, copy, and scan like a pro. Nor is it my expanded knowledge of immigration law and legal advocacy. It’s not even how much I have been able to directly assist immigrants. It’s the fact that, having gained all these newfound skills, I now feel confident enough, strong enough, and inspired enough to sustainably and skillfully pursue a career in such a critical field.
My advice to anyone who wants to pursue an internship with the Legal Aid Society or in legal advocacy is to take care of yourself and to bask in the opportunity to engage with individuals of different cultures and backgrounds. But my broader advice to anyone pursuing an internship in any field is to assess how the tasks you are doing, the community you belong to, and the people you are interacting with enhance your own feelings of competency and belonging. The world is a profoundly better place when its inhabitants are pursuing their passions, evolving with their work, and enjoying what they are doing. Any new experience or internship is an opportunity to test out the waters in a field that might meet this criteria. Each new opportunity, no matter how favorable its outcome, is a step in the ongoing, evolving process of finding what fulfills you.
My internship was a step forward in this process, and I am grateful to have cultivated an even greater passion for legal advocacy.
I am so thankful to the Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit for allowing me to participate in such a meaningful and amazing internship. I am also appreciative of the Hiatt Career Center, the World of Work (WOW) Social Justice grant, and my WOW adviser Kim Airasian for providing me with the funds and the support to pursue an internship in NYC with the Legal Aid Society this summer.
-Alison Hagani ’22