Anais Salazar 3L is interning with the Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit in lower Manhattan.
How is your internship going?
It’s going really well. I interned with Legal Aid last semester too, but I was mostly doing immigration detention work then. My current supervisor focuses on benefits immigrants may be eligible for, and I’m learning a lot. Taking immigration courses in school is helpful, but it’s not the same as putting it into practice and working with clients, which I’m doing here.
What projects and tasks are you working on?
Every client is unique. But generally speaking, the cases involve family-based petitions, new visas, work authorizations, FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests, naturalization applications, and TPS applications. [TPS stands for Temporary Protected Status, a status allowing a person from another country to temporarily live and work in the U.S.] My supervisor also does extensive outreach to immigrant communities, and I’ve been going with her. We meet with new clients and do intake. That’s how Legal Aid gets some of its cases. Some clients I meet have issues that cross into other types of law. For example, some people want to naturalize but have a criminal history. Or, someone might come to us with an immigration issue but also have a separate housing problem. We received training at the beginning of the internship so that we could refer clients to different Legal Aid departments if needed.
Are there opportunities for mentoring with senior attorneys?
Yes, I’ve definitely met attorneys I see as mentors. In addition to my benefits-related work, I’ve been working with the TPS [Temporary Protected Status] clinic, and I’m meeting other attorneys that way. The camaraderie at Legal Aid is great. People are very open to guiding you and giving you advice.
Are you seeing the connection between your classes and this work?
Taking Immigration Law with Professor Lenni Benson was very helpful because in order to do a lot of the work I’m doing here, I have to know the fundamentals of immigration law. I also have to be able to explain the process to clients. My experience in the Immigration Law and Litigation Clinic, working with Safe Passage Project, was also relevant. I’ve recommended Special Immigrant Juvenile Status to several people because of what I learned in the clinic.
How does this internship link to your career interests?
This experience has definitely confirmed my interest in Immigration Law. I want to keep exploring to see if I might be interested in Business Immigration too. After I graduate, I wouldn’t mind doing the benefits side of immigration, the work I’m doing now. It’s never boring because every person is different. You’re constantly doing research and learning more, especially as policies change.
Are there opportunities for extracurricular activities?
The Immigration Law Unit has a lot of get-togethers. That’s how I’ve been able to meet the other attorneys. Legal Aid also takes part in protests related to policy changes by the new administration, and I’ve attended some of those. I support their stance on a lot of the issues. The protests are also a way to meet attorneys from other organizations that work with immigrants.