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Public Interest Law Project

Lindsay Jonasson

September 30, 2017

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Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project

Receiving a PILP stipend allowed me to spend the summer fighting for immigrant justice in Los Angeles alongside the inspirational team at Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, a public interest legal organization that supports some of the most vulnerable immigrants in the Los Angeles area. As an intern in Esperanza’s Legal Orientation Program (LOP) at Adelanto Detention Center, I was immersed in immigration removal defense for detained adults facing potential deportation. Adelanto is run by a for-profit private prison company and located in the desert several hours from Los Angeles. Because most adults in immigration detention do not have access to an attorney, Esperanza offers group and individual legal orientations to help people better represent themselves.

I spent several days a week at the detention center helping to provide legal information to detained individuals in removal proceedings about eligibility for bond, defenses to deportation, the possible immigration consequences of criminal convictions, and applications for relief. I met with people facing a wide variety of legal challenges, including undocumented community members with deep ties in the US, long-time residents with green cards whom the government was trying to strip of legal status, and recently arrived immigrants fleeing danger and violence in their home countries. 

In addition to my work with LOP, I also had the opportunity to handle several legal cases under the direction of my supervising attorney. While at the detention center, I helped to represent a client in bond proceedings by preparing his bond filing and making a supervised appearance at his hearing in immigration court. I gained a different kind of experience by assisting another client in preparing an application for herself and her children for a U visa, which is available to some victims of crimes in the US.

Overall, the internship was a tremendously valuable and challenging experience for me. I witnessed first-hand the injustices of our detention and deportation system and the many obstacles to fair and humane outcomes for detained adults and their families. At the same time, I was fortunate enough to train with courageous and creative legal advocates who continue to fight back as attacks on immigrant communities intensify. The lessons I learned have made me a more powerful advocate and will continue to guide me in social justice lawyering.

I am deeply grateful to PILP and PILP’s supporters for making this experience possible for me and for other students who want to use the law to challenge oppressive systems. Like most non-profit organizations, Esperanza does not have the resources to provide funding for summer interns, and I would not have been able to grow and contribute as part of Esperanza’s team without PILP’s support. Thank you!

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