Fall Intern Nick Hochfeld ’16 writes about his internship at an immigration law firm in Walla Walla

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 7.47.33 PMWorking at Hernandez Immigration Law has been an incredible experience!  So far, it’s been the most interesting and engaging internship that I’ve held.  The highlights include working directly with clients, researching reports from the United Nations and Amnesty International to support cases, and learning about the complex world of immigration policy.  Not to mention the catered breakfast that the office prepared for the interns.

My boss, Wendy Hernandez, has been a wonderful mentor.  She comes from a long history of nursing and social work before obtaining her law degree and beginning work in the field of immigration law.  Now, I wouldn’t use the word idolize, but I deeply respect Wendy Hernandez for her work in making a positive impact in the lives of members of the Latino community.  Hopefully, one day, I can follow in her footsteps and put the skills I’ve learned to work.

As far as my duties go, my most exciting project has been stamping and mailing several dozen envelopes.  I kid, I kid.  I’ve been given the opportunity to work directly with clients that seek legal residence in the United States.  Many of them come from troubled backgrounds in adverse conditions and a large number only speak Spanish.  Being able to watch Wendy and her associates work with these clients has been a fascinating experience.  I’d never know how exactly the legal process of immigration worked, and being able to stand by as the process takes place has been very educational.

Furthermore, I am responsible for researching information in support of asylum cases.  I come from a background on the Whitman Model United Nations team and so I’ve always loved conducting research on international issues.  In this case, I’m researching international findings on domestic violence and the inability of Mexican police to aid the victims.  The research has been very interesting and I’ve been able to glean plenty of information that will ultimately be helpful in helping to win asylum cases for our clients.

Another interesting aspect of this internship has been my opportunity to read personal statements and backgrounds of our clients.  This has done a great job of humanizing the issue of immigration.  When presented with these true stories, I know that the work that the law firm is doing, which I have the honor of participating in, generates tangible change for the better in the lives of Mexican immigrants.  After other internships, I’ve feared that I would end up in a dead end office job, losing all of my passion and missing out on the opportunity to contribute to social justice.  This internship has shown me that just because you work in an office, doesn’t mean that you are not pursing positive change.  I’m so excited to continue my work with Hernandez Immigration Law because I believe that as liberal arts students, it is our responsibility to use the knowledge we have gained from Whitman to give back to not only our community, but all of those in need.

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