Intern: Jennifer Rodriguez
Major: Sociology and Chicanx Studies
Can you tell us about the roles and responsibilities of your internship at this organizer?
Jennifer: As an undergraduate, I do not get the same responsibilities as a law student. However, I do get the opportunities to develop the skills law students have. I am responsible for client outreach, I am usually the one making phone calls to clients to pass on any information from the attorney. I also have the opportunity to work on declarations with clients (with the supervision of an attorney) and developing trust with the client. I also have the opportunity to work on a U VISA case as a semester-long project.
Can you tell us about your position here and what roles and responsibilities come with that title?
Supervisor: I am currently the staff attorney at Ayuda. My job title consists of representing immigrants in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area who are low income. I represent them in humanitarian or family base forms of relief. This includes deportation defense, immigration court representation, and various other aspects. I work on a lot of U-VISA’s, T-VISA’s, VAWA’s, SJIS (Special Immigrant Juveniles Status) cases, Green Cards, TPS renewals, DACA renewals and so on. I represent clients in state courts. I also coordinate the DC immigration internship program that involves recruiting interns, interviewing them, onboarding them, and assigning supervisors to them. I also plan and arrange events for them to attend so that they can interact with my other co-workers. This way they can get a sense of what goes on at Ayuda outside of the immigration unit.
How does this internship relate to your career aspirations? Has it informed your goals for the future?
Jennifer: I took this internship because I have been debating on whether or not I wanted to go to law school. I wanted to learn more about what an attorney’s daily routine was like, especially an attorney who worked with immigrants. I had the opportunity to attend an asylum hearing, and that same day I decided I wanted to go to law school. It was very heart-warming to see that there is indeed hope within the immigration system.
What kinds of skills does the organization look for in prospective interns?
Supervisor: For undergraduate interns, we don’t necessarily expect a lot of incoming skills, we look for a passion for this work. We recognize that undergraduate interns might not have had opportunities to have developed skills a law student might have. However, we do pay attention to their cover letters and resumes to see if there are any typos to see how their attention to detail is. I interview them to talk about the work that it takes to work with traumatized clients. Spanish is also not a requirement, but communication skills in Spanish are important because a lot of our clients are Spanish-speaking. For me, internships are meant to help interns develop skills. For example, I’m here to teach you how to put together cover letters for an asylum case.
What are some of the skills you’ve utilized and developed the most while being here?
Jennifer: A skill that I am currently developing and constantly working on is my attention to detail. Attention to detail is crucial when filling out forms. It is not just turning in an essay and not seeing the professor ever again. Someone’s life depends on these forms, which is why it is important to pay attention to everything that you are filling out.
Can you tell us what your work has been like at this organization?
Jennifer: My work at Ayuda has definitely helped me grow as a person. I came in feeling very uncomfortable when it came to talking on the phone, however it is a skill that I continue to work on. I also feel that it has helped me with multitasking and time management. These were some of my weakest suits but have quickly developed after practicing them for various weeks.
What kind of advice would you give someone looking for similar internship opportunities?
Jennifer: My biggest piece of advice would be to not lose faith, and to know when to step back. I had an internship over the summer that was very similar to the one I have here. I got to go to an Asylum hearing, however that client was denied their asylum application. I left feeling even more hopeless in the immigration system. However, this internship has taught me that even the small victories matter. In terms of stepping back, it is not uncommon for immigrants to have traumatizing experiences. It is important to know what you can handle and when you need to step back and take a second to breathe.