“Voices from the Northwest” is a new blog series featuring Jesuit Volunteer reflections on JV life, lessons from the year, and the vital service JVs provide. Follow along with us in this story series and learn from incredible folks like current JV Eliana, supporting immigrants seeking legal support in the Northwest.
Half-way through my time as a college undergrad, I recognized that standing alongside those whose voice so often goes unheard was my passion. It was a passion that I yearned to live out daily, and it led me to pursue a year of service as a Jesuit Volunteer upon graduation. I was drawn to JVC Northwest’s four core values: social and ecological justice, simple living, community, and spirituality and to discern a placement that allowed bringing strength and volume to those unheard voices.
This year, I serve as the Intake Coordinator for an organization dedicated to serving low-income immigrants from around the world. As Intake Coordinator, I interview potential clients to help screen for immigration protections available under the law, including special protections for immigrant crime victims, asylum seekers, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) applicants, and those eligible for family-based immigration relief. In spite of all of the challenges of the position, I have learned to appreciate the 144 cases I manage at any given time, the steep learning curve that is immigration law, and the never-ending phone calls from potential clients seeking relief. Regardless of the case, the strength and courage of my clients is admirable, and their resilience encourages me to keep pressing forward in the face of adversity.
Not every case I handle has a happy ending, however: screening those seeking relief, but having to let them know that they’re not eligible for any immigration benefits; feeling powerless and defeated after listening to heartbreaking stories of families fleeing persecution, and knowing their claim isn’t strong enough to meet our nation’s strict asylum requirements. Can you imagine how difficult it is to tell potential clients that we aren’t going to be able to represent them, and knowing they will have to navigate a complex legal system on their own? Nonetheless, feeling powerless is a constant reminder that there will always be room for progress and battles against injustice to be won. So, to say my experience as a Jesuit Volunteer is humbling would be an understatement.
In recent days, a greater sense of fear has gripped our clients. I feel their anxiety in our office and at our community education presentations, questioning what they should do and wondering if they are going to be deported and separated from their loved ones. Many of our clients have loved ones whose immigrant visa processing has been suspended and their entry into the United States prohibited. These individuals have been waiting patiently to be reunified with their families here in the United States.
I greatly admire the work I witness and contribute to every day, and I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to play a role in such an incredible organization. I am continuously reminded of the importance of standing and fighting alongside underserved communities and I am grateful to JVC Northwest for partnering with organizations across the Northwest dedicated to serving such communities.