Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Immigration Panel

Meggie Girardi

Last week I went to the panel talk on immigration. There was a professor from Loyola, a Legal Aid’s lawyer, and a lawyer who works at a law clinic and gives free legal advice through the University Of Maryland School Of Law. I was able to hear the Legal Aid worker speak who works for CASA de Maryland, a non-profit organization that helps the Spanish speaking population with legal advice such as documentation, getting jobs, and creating a stable environment for their families. CASA's vision is for strong, economically and ethnically diverse communities in which all people especially women, low-income people, and workers – can participate and benefit fully, regardless of their immigration status.
The Legal Aid lawyer, Lisa, said that all throughout law school her professors, colleagues, and society dangle $150,000 a year over her head. Meaning when she was in law school all of her friends were studying to become research lawyers or went into private practices. She decided to be a social work lawyer. She said the difference between her and her friends is that she loves her job and is passionate about what she does. I think it’s important to do what you love and love what you do, before money gets in the way. Her friends are making the big bucks but they hate the work they do all day. Lisa also stated that she is the only lawyer that works for CASA de Maryland and there is a two year waiting list for her legal services.
Most of the cases she deals with are of immigrant worker rights. Even if undocumented immigrants are hired and follow through with their work, they should be paid in full. Businesses seem to think that just because worker are undocumented means they don’t need to receive pay. I wish more people would see the need for social work lawyers. It’s hard, demanding work but the people who desperately need legal services are those who can’t afford it. I am fairly naive to the law world, I do know that lawyers cost a lot of money but I was shocked at the two year waiting list for CASA de Maryland service. Every two months Lisa has to not accept new clients because she has so many cases to deal with already.
I guess one of the political science classes had to take a survey the week before the panel came to Loyola. One of the questions was similar to, “Have you personally ever encountered an undocumented citizen?” I was shocked at the large majority of Loyola students said, “No”. Its interesting because if you have never been in a restaurant, Wal-Mart, or Macy’s then “yes” maybe you have never encountered an undocumented citizen. As we all know that is highly unlikely. I feel that Loyola as a whole could become more aware of these issues but the panel was a great step in the right direction. The immigration issue has become important to me for a few different reasons. One I realize that the rights of a person are being violated. It is basic idea of valuing a human being and giving people respect.
Only this year have I become more familiar with the immigration issues of the United States and developed a better understanding of what legal and undocumented immigrants go through. I am traveling to Mexico over Christmas break with 20 other Loyola students with the Project Mexico team. I am looking to explore and educate myself on social justice issues faced by people in developing countries. I find it extremely important to reflect on what I experience in the light of various beliefs, values, faith, and expertise that each member will bring to the team.

Because of our talk on Tuesday about our calling in life and our vocation, I am constantly wondering what I was meant to do with my life. I can hopefully narrow down the huge world around me to things I am interested in, as being my future. I loving doing community service, interacting with people. Maybe through my Project Mexico emersion trip I will find something I am called to do. I hope through the reflective part of this class and my experiences at Loyola I can come to find my passion. I truly believe that we were all made with a certain talent that can benefit the world and the people around us. This class is really allowing me to truly learn a lot about myself.
Now that I have the chance to reflect upon immigration issues that are vital today, I realize that upon going to this panel and thinking about the immigration system in Baltimore, I have can connect my service, my college education, the city of Baltimore, all to each other.

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