Welcome to my-life-in-a-nutshell-for-the-last-three-(now-four-)months Part 2:
The day after hubby and I returned home from the honeymoon, I started my summer internship with the Immigration and Legal Services department at a (somewhat) local Catholic Charities office. My real interest in the internship was to learn about refugee and asylee law, but I knew the job would include exposure to a much wider variety of immigration legal issues. In the end, it was a great experience - having just finished an immigration law course a few weeks before I started, it was really cool to be working in an environment where I could observe how what I'd learned in class directly affects the everyday lives of so many people. I was little disappointed at the lack of actual "legal practice" involved, though - this particular office doesn't provide any legal services that would require a lawyer accompanying a client to court or removal proceedings, or an asylum hearing. Instead, the office primarily provides consultations to clients who are seeking some kind of pre-emptive immigration relief (meaning they haven't already been tracked down by ICE and are seeking some kind of protection or relief from future possible deportation).
*I've realized the next few paragraphs of this post are probably unbelievably boring to 99% of the people who will ever read this blog, but it's taken me so long to write it I can't bring myself to delete it. Sooooo….IF YOU CARE TO LEARN A TAD ABOUT IMMIGRATION LAW, FEEL FREE TO READ EVERYTHING BELOW. IF NOT, FEEL FREE TO SKIP TO THE NEXT *
Therefore, I spent most of my summer meeting with people who qualify for something called "deferred action for childhood arrivals" (DACA). This is a piece of legislation passed in August 2012 that aims to give some temporary protection to immigrants who have been in the U.S. for most of their lives. This typically ends up being children who crossed the border with their parents, usually before they were school-age, and have lived in the U.S. for nearly the entire lives. The requirements (if anyone is interested) are that they have to currently be at least 15 years old; show they entered the U.S. before their 16th birthday; show they were physically present in the US on June 15, 2007 and have been continuously present in the US up to the current date; show they are either currently enrolled in school, have received a high school diploma or GED; show they are currently living in the US without lawful status; and show they have no criminal history. Being approved for this form of temporary relief means that, while the legislation lasts (Congress can revoke it at a later date), a recipient will not be placed in removal proceedings (i.e. deported) simply because they are present in the US without lawful status. This means if they commit a crime or some other deportable offense, they can still be placed in removal proceedings, and if they leave the country, they have no license to re-enter the United States - however, simply being in the U.S. "illegally" will not land them in immigration court. This legislation also allows recipients to apply for a social security number, which in turn allows them to get a job, driver's license, etc.
I also had the chance to work with immigrants who had been admitted to the U.S. as refugees, and were now eligible to adjust/apply for their permanent resident status (aka their "green card"), and also with U.S. citizens who were ready to petition to bring over family members from another country. I enjoyed meeting with these people and hearing their stories, and their cases were typically pretty straightforward and simple. It's a little crazy, though, that people come in to start the petition process of sponsoring their parent or siblings so they can immigrate to the U.S., all the while knowing it will likely be at least a 7-20 year process. It was a good reminder at just how blessed I am to live in a country with so many opportunities and so much affluence, and also a good reminder that not everyone gets to experience the same political and economic security I've known my whole life.
Additionally, I had the chance to work with some women who had been granted temporary relief status because they were either victims of a violent crime (U-Visa recipients) or domestic violence (relief under VAWA - Violence Against Women Act). Both of these programs allow people to stay in the U.S. for a temporary period while they "get back on their feet," and the recipients are then allowed to apply permanent resident status after a given period of time, provided there is no criminal activity or other problems during that probationary time period. I really enjoyed speaking with these women, and hoped that the few hours I got to spend with them preparing their files and applications helped at least a little in setting their lives on the right track to recovery and a better life.
Overall, immigration law is an extremely interesting field, and I wouldn't mind getting back into later on down the road. It's such a complicated and codified process, it was nice to be in a position where I was simultaneously learning about the law and helping people navigate their way through our complicated system in their quest to obtain a rightful, legal status. There were two main issues that made me decide I want to try something else for now, though - #1 - I don't speak spanish. Like, not even a little. And that severely limits how much direct contact I can have with clients in my area who are seeking immigration law advice. #2 - I honestly don't have strong feelings about immigration policy and legislation either way. I loved learning about immigration law - digging into legislation policy, however, is not something I've ever been interested enough to really research and form a firm opinion on. This summer, I got to see how this is a topic that directly affects SO MANY people, and it really helped remind me that this is an issue that affects individual lives, not just a generic group of "other people" - aaaaaaand at the same time, it showed me that there are a LOT of people who feel completely entitled "work" and take advantage of our immigration and legal system, which was frustrating. Given what I've seen so far in my new internship, though, I'm starting to think that's just a trend that nonprofit legal organizations see, no matter what field of law you are working in. You just have to remember that along with the frustrating clients, there are also those who genuinely need, deserve, and appreciate the help.
Thankfully my immigration internship ended with another month of my summer left. Woohoo! It was definitely time for a break, too. Between the engagement, wedding planning, school semester, finals, moving, wedding, honeymoon traveling, then a full-time internship with 3+ hours in the car each day, my body was getting crazy rundown. Over the next few weeks, I tried to balance a good amount of "down time" while at the same time finally going through all our wedding gifts, packing/moving/unpacking the rest of my stuff from my parents' house, and trying to "set up house." During that time hubby and I also traveled up to DC for a long weekend with my family for my grandfather's memorial service in Arlington Cemetery. It was absolutely wonderful - we got a few days to explore the city, followed by all my aunts, uncles, and cousins being in the same place to honor my grandfather's life and service to his country. He was a colonel in the Air Force during WWII and beyond, and he had a full honor guard present at his memorial service. It was beautiful, and we all knew he would have been extremely pleased. After the service, the whole family headed to a french restaurant my grandparents used to frequent in the city, and we spent the night savoring some delicious french delicacies and sharing stories about my grandad's life. My family has a strong french heritage and pride, which was primarily instilled in us by my grandfather, so this was an absolutely perfect way to wrap up a day/trip celebrating his life.
During the few weeks at home before school started back, hubby and I were finally able to get a little more "settled in" - curtains got hung, wedding gifts got returned/exchanged, our dish set got completed…it was a nice sense of accomplishment - but it still feels like there is so much to do! It's hard to believe we've both been living here for over three months now. I think it's about time I start getting some of these decorations up, or else it will be time for us to move again before they've even been put up!
That's about all for now. There's more to update on now that school has started back and a new internship has started, but this post has already hit "way too long" status. I'll include more of a health update in my next post, too (it looks like it's about time to cave and start another round of IVs - but you gotta do what you gotta do).
Be back soon!