Our Summer Series continues! This series highlights different Latina students and law grads as they embark in their summer jobs and/or bar prep all across the country. We hope to provide a variety of work experiences, options for a healthy work-life balance, and general motivation through different guest contributors to help you to take charge of your summer and professional goals! Today we also hear from Nicole, a rising 3L who is working with migrant communities in Ohio–she reminds us of how rewarding this hard, hard work can be.
Hi everyone! My name is Nicole and I am a rising 3L at the University of Nebraska College of Law. Currently, I am a summer associate with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE), a nonprofit in Ohio that provides free legal services to low-income clients. I am part of the Agricultural Worker and Immigrant Rights practice group, and I have never felt more certain that immigration law is my calling. Now more than ever, I feel compelled to help those affected by our immigration laws. Each day at ABLE there is something new to work on, from client intake meetings, to filing applications for immigration relief, and providing rapid responses to the multiple workplace raids that have taken place this summer.
Ohio is home to many migrant labor camps, and families from all over the world come to rural Ohio during the summer months to work in agriculture operations. ABLE provides outreach to dozens of labor camps throughout the state and provides legal services to many farmworkers and agricultural workers who otherwise would not have representation. The country has been going through an immigration crisis for years, so I was prepared to face challenging situations over the summer, but I had no idea how many major issues would arise.
Two weeks after I began my internship, ICE performed the largest workplace raid in decades when they arrested 114 people at an Ohio lawn and garden business. A few weeks later, ICE apprehended 140 people from a meat packing operation in another Ohio city. While we were still working with clients from the first raid, we suddenly had twice as many clients in need. My office partnered with other local nonprofits and provided emergency clinics for families affected by the raids. We offered free legal consultations for those who had a loved one detained, and offered to represent many individuals during the process. Law school often teaches us to remove the humanity from of the issues we face, and to look objectively at the facts. However, the work I’m doing is absolutely client based and focuses on helping people get back up after they’ve been presented with some of the most challenging situations imaginable. Every day I feel rewarded knowing that I’ve done something meaningful that will have lasting effects for those involved.
While it’s easy to get discouraged by the attacks on our community, it’s more important than ever to stand up and fight for our basic human rights. I started law school during the 2016 election season, and often have felt frustrated that I cannot do more to help my community during times of struggle. Although I’ve been devastated to see the heartbreak experienced by the community after the raids, it helps that I am be able to use the skills I’ve gained in law school to help people navigate the complicated legal systems in place. I am glad to be in a position where I can help relieve some of the stress and hardship that immigrants often face when coming to this country.
One of the most important things I’ve learned at ABLE is to be calm under pressure. This summer we have had setbacks from both the Attorney General and the Supreme Court, had families ripped apart at the border, and have had immigrant communities forever changed here in Ohio. All of these changes have been unexpected and are sure to have lasting effects. However, each day at my internship, I admire the legal team’s ability to take everything in stride. Seamlessly, they have taken on more clients, given media interviews, held press conferences and emergency clinics, all while dedicating time and energy towards their preexisting caseloads. Many of us in the legal field are extremely Type A, and plan every detail of our lives down to the minute, with spreadsheets, color coding, and to-do lists. However, we have to remember that clients depend on us to help them through some of the hardest days in their lives, and we cannot forget that we’re in a position to help hundreds of families who otherwise may not be afforded their basic legal rights. The work I’m doing this summer can be unpredictable at times, which is why it is essential to remain focused on each challenge as it comes, and never to forget why I chose this path.