As the daughter of a Dominican mother who came to this country at the age of 14 and a Venezuelan father who came to this country at the age of 21, I learned early on that the help I provided my parents was not that of a regular child. I was entrusted with helping them translate legal documentation, I would stay up late helping my mom study when she wanted to go back to school and later help her prepare for interviews in English, so that she could leave her overnight job cleaning hotel rooms. I would also call and yell at my landlord when he attempted to take advantage of my parents by not providing basic necessities; the list goes on.
My parents' immigration story always shaped the career path I envisioned for myself. I wanted to become an immigration attorney to partake in the fight against families who constantly faced discrimination and live in daily fear of deportation and separation. Until I could fulfill that dream, I was set on immersing myself in as many political and public interest opportunities as I could.
Prior to entering law school, I held positions with two different state senators where I was able to speak with lobbyists and constituents and sit in on various meetings on an array of topics, including immigration. I was also able to watch our law-making process firsthand and witness many nuances in the law. Upon entering law school, Rutgers has enabled me with the opportunity to serve on the board of the Immigration Law Society; volunteer over Spring Break at Catholic Charities in New Orleans, specifically within their Immigration and Refugee Services Department. But most importantly, Rutgers has provided me with a network of individuals with similar objectives. Through my Immigrant Justice Fellowship, I’ve been able to work directly with Professor Gottesman, the head of the Immigrant Justice Clinic, in hosting immigration-related events throughout the academic year and receive help in obtaining opportunities such as my current summer internship.
The Guardianship Project (TGP) at the Vera Institute of Justice serves as court-appointed agency guardians to vulnerable and impoverished individuals from many walks of life; including elderly, undocumented and disabled individuals. What drew me to TGP was their holistic guardianship services model. Project staff includes lawyers, social workers, and finance associates, who oversee an array of services and help clients to remain independent and engaged in their communities. I found this to be extremely important because many times vulnerable populations don’t just need legal help; they need help with applying for government benefits, translating documentation, money management and simply knowing that there is someone in their corner.
As a legal intern, I assisted staff attorneys with research projects and helped with drafting various Orders to Show Cause to establish Guardianship and OSC’s to sell real property and ensure that individuals are relocated to places where they are able to receive full-time supervision. The highlight of my internship was working closely with one of the attorneys on a case of possible misappropriation of funds by a family member of a TGP client.
All in all, this internship has further fueled the type of help I’d like to one day be able to provide as an attorney and I look forward to taking the skills I’ve developed this summer into my final year of law school.