Lauren Bateman RLAW’20:
I have mainly spent the first half of my internship at Justice at Work (formerly known as Friends of Farmworkers) conducting research and writing. I helped write an article for the Legal Intelligencer on sexual harassment among low-wage immigrant workers, prepared for the settlement of a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act, and, most recently, explored the intersection between domestic violence and labor trafficking. I expect to do more direct client service work during the second half of my internship by assisting a client with her U-visa application.
My long-term goal is to be in a position where I can provide direct assistance to individuals dealing with issues of employment discrimination. However, because Justice at Work supports low-wage workers who are in particularly vulnerable positions, it’s rare that their clients are just dealing with employment discrimination-related matters. As such, I have been able to see how the attorneys and paralegals here approach client intakes to ensure they identify every potential legal issue their clients may be experiencing, especially when the clients may not even know they have additional claims.
My work-study position as a Spanish-English interpreter and translator in the University’s legal clinics provided me with a unique opportunity to get hands-on experience at a very early point in my legal education. I was then able to transition into my summer position with a basic understanding of the types of protections available to immigrant victims and how to best approach working with low-income clients more generally.
Additionally, through the Social Justice Scholars program, I was paired with a faculty mentor who talks through class selection and job searches with me, who serves as a professional reference, and, as a respected professional in the field that I one day hope to enter, has served as an inspiration. The SJS Program has also connected me with like-minded students who will certainly be lifelong friends of mine.
Joanna Gardner RLAW’19:
I knew I wanted to attend law school to become a public interest lawyer. Prior to law school, I spent a year volunteering in rural Honduras at a home for children. This experience living briefly in Central America and the Spanish language skills I acquired there ignited my interest in immigration law. After returning from Honduras, I worked at a social services agency for two years where we had a refugee resettlement program. Meeting these incredibly resilient refugee families inspired me to continue working with members of the immigrant and refugee community in the U.S. I started law school in 2016 and the upheaval in the nation’s immigration policies after the change of administrations in 2017 has solidified my commitment to immigration law during my years at law school.
I am so grateful to be able to spend the summer at Justice at Work (formerly Friends of Farmworkers). Justice at Work’s primary focus is assisting low-wage immigrant workers on a range of employment matters, such as wage theft, labor trafficking, and discrimination. But they provide wrap-around legal services on a range of legal needs clients may have. One major issue that may impede clients’ willingness or ability to fully pursue their employment law cases is often immigration status. Certain immigration legal remedies are especially applicable to Justice at Work’s clients, such as the T-visa, which is available to survivors of human trafficking, and the U-visa, which is available to survivors of certain kinds of crimes, such as sexual harassment. My work at Justice at Work this summer has mostly involved assisting on T and U visa applications. I’ve helped with interviewing clients to draft declarations, compiling evidence, filling out forms and writing cover letters that lay out the legal arguments for why the client qualifies for this form of immigration relief.
I am interested in pursuing a career in humanitarian immigration law and so this position aligns perfectly with my career goals! I’ve also had the opportunity this summer to learn a lot about the intersection of employment issues and immigration law, which was new for me. Last summer my internship was through a domestic violence project, and so we approached T and U visas specifically through this lens. Approaching these same visas from the angle of immigrants who have survived certain kinds of crimes in the workplace has been immensely helpful in broadening my perspective and helping me become familiar with different ways to advocate for clients.
At Rutgers, I have found a community that is immensely supportive both of my public interest and immigration legal services career goals. As a member of the social justice scholars program, I have been surrounded by a community of like-minded peers since my first days at law school and was connected to a faculty mentor, Professor Joanne Gottesman, from my first semester. Professor Gottesman is the director of the immigrant justice clinic at Rutgers and has helped me tremendously to begin carving my path as an immigration lawyer. I had the opportunity to take a class in Child Migration last summer where we traveled to Guatemala during Spring Break. This experience helped me to understand where clients of Guatemalan descent are coming from when they enter our office and was an amazing opportunity to strengthen my cultural appreciation and understanding.