Fall Intern Jackie Bonilla ’16 writes about her internship at an immigration law firm in Walla Walla

Jackie Bonilla_blog photoIt was a casual Sunday evening just like any other, just me and the never ending assigned readings I wasn’t too thrilled about doing. When it occurred to my procrastinating self, what if I contact the only immigration lawyer in town I know and ask about the possibility of interning in her office. I knew this was a long shot because I’ve tried interning at law firms in San Francisco before and it hasn’t worked out. Law internships are usually reserved for actual law students, not just aspiring ones. I wrote up an email and hoped for the best. Little did I know that I would receive a quick response the very next morning asking for my resume. Before I knew it, two days later, I was sitting with Wendy Hernandez in her office solidifying my intern position and responsibilities.

Jackie Bonilla blog photo

At work with different piles of immigration and case forms.

Honestly, I’ve done quite a few internships in my day, but never have I felt so excited and terrified at the same time (a feeling that hasn’t quite gone away yet). I’m essentially a paralegal, which is something I had never even considered or thought about until I became a part of Hernandez Immigration Law. Most of my time is spent filling out government immigration forms, translating official government documents and statements, or doing research for asylum cases. I know, filling out papers sounds like the most boring and repetitive task ever. I too, initially dreaded spending so much time behind a desk doing the same thing over and over again or so I thought (this was before I actually started interning). Despite filling out similar forms it never gets boring.

No two cases are ever the same, each brings its own wave of challenges and complications that we must figure out as a team. A team referring to the law staff, myself, the client, and any other necessary player, it could be a Consulate, government officials, non-profits, and the list goes on. At times, I get to serve as an interpreter and translate for our clients. Where I get to personally hear their stories, which is always such a humbling experience. As well as a constant reminder as to why I’ve set my heart on being an immigration lawyer since the seventh grade.

This is what makes my job so exciting because you honestly can’t imagine some of the stories you hear. Some are quite heartbreaking, but serving as an advocate for individuals who are looking for a second opportunity is so fulfilling. But it also scares me so much it motivates me to do the best possible job I can do on every single form I fill out. This is not just a form, this is a potential opportunity to change someone’s life, and at times it could change an entire family’s circumstance. I’m so grateful that I’m able to be a part of this while confirming my goals and aspirations.


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