Being at Northwest Immigrant Rights Project for a little less than a year has so far taught me about immigration law and the subject matter of domestic violence. Every day presents a new set of responsibilities for me. I work as the VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) Intake Coordinator at NWIRP, where I’m seen as the “gatekeeper” and communicate with survivors of domestic violence or assaults to help start legal cases for them so that hopefully they gain legal status in the US. Most of my clients are undocumented immigrants from Latin America, but no two cases are ever the same. Clients call my direct office number to get prescreened where I coordinate getting appropriate documentation from them and inputting any contact in our electronic system. I conduct intakes with clients so that the attorneys will have sufficient information to review their case and determine what kind of legal assistance would work best for their circumstances. When leading intakes, I’ve learned it’s important to actively listen to clients and validate their experiences and feelings when recounting memories of domestic violence. One common theme that stuck out to me was hearing how survivors of DV lose support from people close to them. On top of that, clients mention that finding work to support not just themselves but their families is beyond difficult.
In addition to intakes, I let clients know when their case is ready to be taken by a pro bono attorney. Last December, a group of law student paired up with volunteer attorneys in other offices to take cases from our waitlist. On average there are about 25 cases to send out during this time of the year. This involves a lot of paperwork, but it is very satisfying to know that the clients are well on their way to immigration relief and (re-)building stable lives for themselves and their families. Work is challenging and busy, but I think I wouldn’t have gotten this far if it weren’t for my coworkers, especially those in the VAWA unit. Whenever I needed help, all of them welcome my questions and I am truly thankful for being immersed in a positive atmosphere while working on a heavy subject matter.