MIRC Internship Exit Report - 2011
I had an extremely valuable experience serving as a law clerk at the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC) in Kalamazoo, Michigan. During my assignment, I was able to gain experience in public interest immigration legal writing and research, develop cross-cultural lawyering skills by working with culturally diverse clients, improve my case management skills, develop interaction skills with supportive as well as adverse institutions, improve my oral advocacy ability on behalf of immigrants and learn about creative solutions to current issues affecting local immigrant populations. I assisted the supervising attorney and the Americorps attorneys in a wide range of cases and projects involving immigration law and immigrant rights advocacy cases. I participated on all aspects of the legal clinic work, including intake interviews, research, drafting declarations, pleadings and motions to be filed in immigration court and preparing immigration applications. Since I am fluent in Spanish, I translated documents and interpret for clients who could not speak or understand English.
Besides working on typical legal assignments, I had the opportunity to participate on interesting and innovative immigration related projects. I created an “Unauthorized Practice of Law (UPIL)” portfolio identifying possible unlawful “notario publico” establishments in Michigan that will be presented in upcoming local UPIL taskforce meetings. In addition, I assisted an immigrant youth organization to work on a guide for immigrant students in Michigan, which included extensive research and reporting on local institution policies.
I also participated on an ethnic media project where I contacted local ethnic media venues to assess whether they would be interested in publishing immigration law related bulletins authored by MIRC. I edited a few article examples and sent them to selected publication organizations. Finally, the last project was related to providing information specific to immigration agencies to the general public. This involved creating a portfolio including building pictures, address, business hours, services provided, among others.
Furthermore, I conducted three immigration workshops in partnership with another intern and with an attorney. Being able to prepare and conduct immigration presentations in Spanish to audiences ranging from 10 to 50 people also helped me developed my oral advocacy skills. Now I feel more comfortable conveying important legal information to others in a language that I learned in recent years. Also, since my partner intern and I had to prepare the workshop, this was an excellent opportunity to learn more about immigrant rights and immigration law in general. I also helped organize and staff a Refugee Adjustment of Status one-day clinic in partnership with other public interest immigration law organizations. As a result, we were able to file green-card applications for five refugee families.
Finally, working closely with public interest immigration attorneys also provided an amazing opportunity to learn about the daily challenges of the career I intend to follow.
In general, the advocacy and workshop-like projects I worked on this summer had a positive impact on local communities because they provided valuable legal information while also linking individuals with helpful resources for future and current legal and social needs. The immigration related projects were useful to the community in the sense that they raised awareness of important issues affecting immigrant communities and may have been the start of ongoing initiatives. For instance, while in process, the guide for immigrant students in Michigan may have assisted admissions counselors to better understand the needs of immigrant students as they participated in policy interviews. After the guide is completed; it will continue to be helpful by assisting local immigrant high school students with their path to college.
The clinical aspect of my summer placement has also made a difference in the community. The availability of free legal immigration assistance is crucial to low income immigrants. Immigration attorneys’ services are very unaffordable to many and free services for immigrants are very limited. Furthermore, immigration decisions have a dire impact on individuals and their families. A deportation order sometimes can be avoided and a family can be kept together and obtain legal immigration status with proper legal help. Vulnerable battered immigrants and unaccompanied minors may also be able to obtain immigration status and escape abusive situations if they can find legal help. In my personal opinion, culturally diverse and unafraid communities have a better chance to prosper and doing immigration work has a direct impact on such factors. After assisting in the cases of over 25 clients, I felt a sense of accomplishment even though there are many more individuals that still need help and cannot be reached due to limited resources.
Natalia Vieira Santanna
Wayne State University Law School