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Enrique Flores, '24

Assisting LGBTQ+ and HIV-Positive Immigrants to Obtain Asylum in the US

Entering my second year at Stanford, I knew that I wanted to spend the upcoming summer working for an organization focused on legal assistance. Throughout much of high school and my freshman year of college—in addition to copious hours spent watching How to Get Away with Murder—the idea of pursuing a law degree post-undergrad was something I had always considered.

However, because I had yet to involve myself in anything legal-related, I was never fully certain. Although I knew that one internship wouldn’t provide me with a complete understanding of the legal field, I hoped that it could give me a sense of the work. 

As I searched for internships, I focused my attention on legal aid non-profits specializing in immigrant assistance. Eventually, and after submitting many applications, I was offered a position as a legal intern in New York City for the group Immigration Equality, a legal aid non-profit concentrated on assisting LGBTQ+ and HIV-positive immigrants to obtain documentation. As someone who is gay and comes from a family of immigrants, I was energized by the prospect of spending my summer assisting my community and those similar to my background. 

At the end of the academic school year, I headed to New York and spent the summer living in Manhattan. I completed my internship through a hybrid model, taking the subway to the office in Brooklyn twice a week and spending the other three days working remotely at various coffee shops and my Airbnb. 

My work tasks varied depending on the needs of the organizations. I had the opportunity to use my language skills to translate extensive asylum pro se guides from English into Spanish and French. I also took time to research the social conditions for HIV-positive individuals in El Salvador in order to write a report that validated the persecution clients experienced during legal proceedings. The staff was extremely caring and my supervisor went above and beyond to provide me with any guidance I may have needed. 

Ultimately, I left my summer feeling inspired and motivated to pursue immigration law after graduating. Seeing how the tasks I completed, both big and small, had a direct impact on the lives of our clients for the better was immensely fulfilling. Some of the most influential moments came during team meetings when we were shown videos and letters from clients thanking us for our work. One video of a gay couple crying tears of joy as they boarded their plane from Saudi Arabia to Winnipeg, Canada after obtaining asylum due to Immigration Equality’s efforts has stuck with me. I could only imagine the elation and relief they finally felt to be able to live their lives in peace without worrying about loving whom they wanted. 

Despite being unable to change the lives of everyone in need, my summer at Immigration Equality gave me the opportunity to see how I could make incremental change professionally through a career in immigration law. From interning, I’ve experienced how intellectually engaging learning about immigration law can be, while also seeing how fulfilling it is to use one’s knowledge to directly better the life of someone else. I cannot thank the staff at Immigration Equality enough for giving me the chance to immerse myself in a profession that I am now passionate about pursuing.

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