A day at the UH Law Center’s Immigration Clinic…

by Felicia

I had previously written that I was drawn to social work because it allowed me to combine my passion for culture, language, human rights, and social justice. By an odd stroke of fate, I obtained a Field III placement at the University of Houston Law Center Immigration Clinic, which allows me to fulfill that very purpose every week.

I am a social work intern within a mini law firm like setting run by student and faculty attorneys. The Immigration Clinic represents real clients applying for asylum as well as immigrant victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, and other qualifying crimes. The clinic represents clients that would otherwise have no means of paying for an immigration attorney.

As a social work intern, I am developing program procedures to assess the clients’ mental health and social service needs along with referral procedures to appropriate community resources. Before starting, I had no clue how this would actually be done. However, over the past six weeks I have been speaking with other trauma treatment and torture survivor programs across the country to get an understanding of their best practices and adapting them for our uses here in Houston. There are days when I work one-on-one with clients in addressing their everyday basic needs such as enrolling in school or accessing social services. I also assist the student attorneys in researching portions of their cases involving a mental health component. However, what I enjoy most is attending the immigration law class every Thursday. Here, I get an in-depth understanding of how immigration policies impact individuals and families in their everyday lives. This is an invaluable opportunity for anyone wanting to influence immigration policy.

I am very excited to be in this setting because it is the first collaboration between the Graduate College of Social Work and the Immigration Clinic. In a way, I feel it is a big responsibility because it is a very unstructured placement and it is up to me to create the structure. And not only a structure that works for me but one that is sustainable for the next intern that may follow. However, when faced with such a daunting task, a good Field Supervisor can be a God send. I am not a clinically oriented social worker, so I am lucky to have a Field Supervisor that challenges me in my weak areas and makes me think in a non-Macro fashion; making me understand the on-the-ground realities of policy implementation.

When I received notice that I was being placed in an immigration law clinic, I wasn’t real sure what that meant. Yet, I had the feeling that it was bound to be something rewarding that I could really be passionate about. Fortunately, my expectations have been met and exceeded.

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