Advocating for Immigrants in Virginia
After spending last summer completing a Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC) sponsored internship at a school in Achuapa, Nicaragua, Kate Irick â€˜13 realized that she wanted to spend more time working to promote the rights of immigrants in the United States. That is why this summer, through the CPGC Continuing Connections program, Irick is interning at the Legal Aid Justice Center in Falls Church, Va.
Economic circumstances in Nicaragua have compelled many people to emigrate to the U.S., says Irick.“And I wanted to learn about the kinds of struggles, particularly legal, people face once they got here.” Irick hopes to play an active role in helping them adjust to and assimilate in America.
Established in 1967, The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) provides free legal aid and services to low-income immigrants in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and Virginia. The organization's projects include elder law and child health advocacy. Irick, a Spanish major, will be doing translation and community outreach for the Immigrant Employment Advocacy program.
So far, Irick has worked on a number of projects related to community development and education of immigrants. She has taught English Second Language (ESL) classes for women and helped create a women's group in one of the apartment complexes where LAJC does outreach. Irick has enjoyed interacting with many different social justice organizations. At a social justice festival at the Wayside Center for Popular Education, she met hotel workers from UNITEHERE as well as community organizers, food bank workers and LGBTQ activists. Last month, she helped to organize and execute a community Health Fair in Annandale, Va., that provided free medical examinations and information for community members. The event, mostly attended by Latinos, included food distribution and musical performances and was co-sponsored by a Korean missionary organization called Good Spoon.
“It was really cool to see the two distinct ethnic communities working to help each other,” says Irick.
Irick has enjoyed learning about different methods of grassroots action. She says that“the best part about working at LAJC so far has been the opportunity to see and participate in the work of different organizations in the region which span multiple causes, states and models for popular/grassroots participation.”
Irick has also been inspired by many of the immigrants she has worked with, including a Salvadoran woman named Tana, who has organized food distributions, a women's group and an adult ESL class.“Having a window into these community members' lives is every day a humbling and rewarding experience,” she says.
--Jacob Lowy â€˜14