I spent the summer of 2013 as an intern in the legal department of Journey’s End Refugee Services, a refugee settlement organization in Buffalo. Journey’s End was established in the late 1970s when a local community member saw a need to help the tens of thousands of Cambodians who came to the United States after the violent, extremist Communist group the Khmer Rouge was overthrown. Some of those who came to the United States ended up in Western New York. This area has since been a destination for many refugees, and today Journey’s End serves 300 to 400 refugees annually. In 2010, Journey’s End formed a legal department headed by a graduate of SUNY Buffalo Law School. This department, now with a staff of three attorneys and a rotating group of law students, provides immigration legal services to people of low income.
As an intern, I learned by shadowing the attorneys at Journey’s End during their client meetings, and I participated in cases by preparing legal memoranda and affidavits, as well as researching aspects of immigration law. The cases included a wide range of immigration issues, including green card and naturalization applications, petitions to bring the families of refugees to the United States, asylum applications and employment authorization applications. As the summer progressed, I was given more responsibilities, including meeting with clients on my own, fielding calls from the legal intake telephone line, and assisting the attorneys during a weekly walk-in clinic, which is open to any member of the community with an immigration question. I also aided in English-to-Spanish translation for Journey’s End departments that provide housing and employment services.
This summer was fundamental in building a skill set in client interactions and expanding my knowledge of immigration law. It sparked my interest in pursuing a career in this field of law, and has allowed me to become more active in my community.