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A project of Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, Inc.

General Line: (213) 251-3505

Fax: (213) 487-0986 

1530 James M Wood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015, USA

©2019 by Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project

Designed and created by Luis D Gonzalez for Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project

Genesis Tejeda
Legal Intern, Berkeley Law

What is your background, where did you come from?

I was born and raised in Queens, New York. Queens is a melting pot of cultures, which is one of the reasons why I love it. My mom immigrated from Ecuador and my dad from the Dominican Republic. I have been surrounded by immigrants my whole life so I was aware of the struggles that immigrant families go through. However, my internship at Esperanza provided me with insight into yet another facet of the immigrant experience in the United States. The experience of people who have recently arrived and are learning to navigate life in the U.S. all while having to navigate our complex immigration system on their own. I have realized that my mom’s experience immigrating was a much different one than that of recent immigrants. Although it was not easy for her by any means, at least she did not immediately have the added stress of ICE raids, removal proceedings in court, and having to find someone to help her navigate immigration court without preying on her vulnerability.

What did you enjoy most about your internship at Esperanza?

What I enjoyed most about my internship at Esperanza was my time working at the Immigration Court Help- Desk (ICH). This is an offering specific to Esperanza. It provides unrepresented individuals with help throughout their immigration case. I believe that my time spent helping in this program resulted in the most impact because I was able to help a lot of people in small but meaningful ways. Although individuals are not given an attorney in immigration court, they are still expected to submit things that lawyers would submit like motions, evidence, declarations, etc. Empowering people with the tools and insight to show up to court with the documents the judge requested and the knowledge to navigate their case is priceless. I even got the opportunity to see one of the clients we helped in ICH in court and watching her ask the judge all the right questions was amazing.

What was the most rewarding part of working with Esperanza?

The most rewarding part of working with Esperanza is serving a population so near and dear to my heart alongside people who truly care. The people that we help have been through so much and still have such resilience and eagerness to fight for another day. Seeing that resilience has shown me that we as humans are stronger than we think.

The staff at Esperanza is amazing. They are invested in the future of our clients and are always coming up with creative approaches. In the current administration, immigration law changes every day and the Esperanza staff is constantly on top of each change. They continuously reassess their approach and are always thinking creatively to maneuver within the confines of the laws we are forced to follow. Esperanza is a great place to learn, make a difference, and grow as an individual.