This summer I interned with Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services (ILS) in Southeast Portland. Catholic Charities ILS provides varied types of low-cost immigration services to low-income clients. In particular, the office focuses on and is especially recognized for its work on U-Visas, Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitions, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). U-Visas and VAWA self-petitions are available through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for victims of crimes and domestic violence. DACA provides deportation relief and work authorization to individuals who were brought to the United States as children and who are either in school or have their high school diploma or GED.
I benefitted tremendously from my summer internship. I worked on all types of cases/petitions. The most memorable case I worked on was when I was handed a U-Visa case to complete from start to finish. This entailed contacting the client, requesting the required paperwork, and then compiling everything in a way that was organized and compelling for the USCIS officer who was to eventually read it. I also had the opportunity to learn first-hand what it was like to entirely complete a case and, hopefully, assist a client in the best way possible. Other parts of my internship experience included participating and conducting client interviews, both in person and over the phone; performing testimony translation; helping in the execution of DACA Renewal Workshops; and performing translation services for clients during their Adjustment of Status interviews with USCIS.
Overall, this summer was an incredibly educational, challenging, and motivating experience. I met a lot of great people in the immigration legal community and grew significantly as a person and a student of the law. But none of this would have been possible without the financial help provided by the PILP stipend. Unpaid internships offer an incredible opportunity for students to gain insight and perspective into the inner workings of public interest law. However, the financial strain on a student who is participating as an unpaid intern is significant. Programs like the PILP stipend help ease that strain and make it possible for legal students to gain valuable practical experience and, more importantly, provide assistance to those programs and the people who need it most.