The weeks are flying by! This week, we worked with our new placements. Meghan, Hailey and I began our work with Catholic Legal Services, a non-profit that works with people looking to become U.S citizens through the naturalization process. When we walked into the office on Monday morning, I was surprised at how many people were already in the waiting room that early. All the seats in the small room were taken and people were leaning against the walls. As we walked closer to the receptionist, I couldn’t help but to feel like an intruder. I felt everyone’s eyes on us as we walked up to ask for Brother Mike, our supervisor. It was probably very clear to everyone that we weren’t there for CLS’ services. We were different. I don’t think we were dressed too nice or anything of that sort that would have identified as professionals or “others” but our aura made us different. Or maybe I was the only one who felt this. I am not sure but what I do know is that I didn’t like feeling different from those in the room. Because, I’m not but at the same time I am---we are there to help and not be helped necessarily (although we get helped in the process).
What was clear from the very first day was that a large percentage of the clients are Haitian. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, the top state of Haitian immigrant settlement is Florida. I hadn’t known that. My experience/knowledge of immigration issues is more centered on Latin Americans, primarily Mexicans and Central Americans. So, in my mind, I had a total different demographic in my mind. I also really think that Creole is such a cool language. And I am extremely curious to learn more about it. Most of the clients speak Creole and I end up watching conversations between clients and the receptionist. My head goes back and forth as I try to decipher what they are saying. Usually, I understand nothing but I always remain hopeful that maybe, somehow, someway I actually do know Creole but its just taking a while to remember it. I’ve always been “in the know” with Spanish, so this inability to not know what is going on when people speak Creole/French is a combination of frustration but also interest and curiosity. Now, I really want to learn Creole.
This week has me questioning my future life plans, which is good but also very unplanned. But I am young and free, so I do have room for unplans (not a word but I will still use it. Later, Hailey and Brenda told Karina that the word is “spontaneity,” not “unplans.”) Like I have mentioned, law has become somewhat a subject of interest for me, as of recently. But even after the first day of working with CLS, I was so motivated. I saw how all the lawyers actually cared about the future of their clients, how much they worked and how much people needed them. Immigration lawyers actually help people. I am not sure about other sectors of law but immigration law is productive and helpful to society. Brother Mike allowed me to translate a meeting between him and a Cuban man because Brother Mike speaks no Spanish and the Cuban man spoke no English. Granted, its not like I defended the man in court or did any real job but the experience was awesome! I felt so pumped after helping. I am looking into the field now and if in the future you see me practicing immigration law, thank Duke Engage. I just really want to be of use to people, especially those that need it the most. And immigration is part of my personal story, so it hits home. With that said, the next final weeks should be fun.
See you next week,