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Knowledge and experiences are definitely out there, you just have to go and get them! With that said, I did not realize the depth of immigration services Orlando has to offer, until I began to network in the immigration community. By way of inspiration, through my participation in the Immigration Law course taught in Spring 2011 by Assistant Professor Maritza Reyes, I became enthralled with the immigration community.
My exposure to community services began with my attendance at one of the advertised events in Professor Reyes’s class, a yearly Anti-Human Trafficking event, where I met representatives from Lutheran Services Florida (LSF). LSF is an Orlando based non-profit organization that assists the federal government with the relocation and assimilation of refugees, asylees and other legal immigrants.
While working with LSF, I learned the ins-and-outs of non-profit organizations and how the government regulates non-profits through conditioned funding. There are numerous guidelines and protocols that non-profits must follow in order to continue receiving their grants. My major assignment at LSF was to compile and simplify the rules and regulations put in place by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and the Department of State Reception and State Program (RSP). These compilations were then used for training and reference purposes.
Wanting more personal experiences with immigration issues, I leaped at the chance of exposure through other pro-bono opportunities. Professor Reyes arranged for our participation in a three- day immigration clinic retreat administered by Villanova School of Law. During the clinic, I was able to learn about other community organizations that provide assistance to immigrants throughout greater Orlando and the surrounding areas.
During the three-day clinic, we were trained on each agency specific issue and completed legal intakes for several individuals. We assisted with the identification and completion of necessary immigration forms. Additionally, at every location we were advised on passport, permanent residency, and deportation issues. Due to the fact that most immigrants on this retreat where non-English speakers, we were trained on language translation and interviewing skills with interpreters, to prevent the major problems involved with language barriers.
My community service has subsequently included volunteering at the Legal Aid Society of Orange County Bar Association, where I personally interview clients and identify various legal issues in the area of family law, landlord tenant, domestic violence, immigration and many more areas. Additionally, I currently practice as a Certified Legal Intern for the Seminole County Public Defender’s Office.
My experience and network with the community has brought what I have learned in Immigration Law to life. My venture has created a passion deep within and has exposed me to a still existing struggle that has yet to reach justice. This semester, I returned to Professor Reyes’s Immigration Law class to share my experiences with fellow students. They are now in the process of identifying their own community activities within the immigration community as part of their Immigration Law course. The first step to justice is knowledge, but it is not going to be handed to us, we have to go get it!
Caption: College of Law students and Assistant Professor Maritza Reyes visit Lutheran Services Florida (LSF). LSF is an Orlando-based non-profit that assists the federal government with the relocation of refugees, asylees and other legal immigrants.