A simple exchange of words between my mother and I keeps reminding me of how this internship has provided me with the opportunity to finally bridge the divide between the two extremes of society I have encountered.
“Que haces ma?”
As I spend my day translating for asylum seekers and filing papers, she has to work twelve hours a day cleaning houses she will never afford. Writing and studying have momentarily released me from the grasp of poverty, but I have not been able to pull my mom out with me (at least for the moment; give me four years and I will tell another tale). It is an upsetting observation, but at the same time, it fills me with hope. Hope for individuals who have fared through similar upbringings but can experience another realm of the world through dedication and playing their cards just right.
Occupying the intersection of being undocumented and poor while attending an “elite” institution provides me with an interesting viewpoint to analyze my world. On the one hand, I am barred from fully participating (e.g. voting, cannot legally work) in the society that I have been a part of since kindergarten without risking deportation from an action as insignificant as boarding the wrong bus. But, on the other hand, I am able to receive an internship at a legal office hundreds of miles away from Wilmington, NC simply because I speak Spanish and have the backing of an institution like Duke. As I translate for asylum seekers and prepare motions for them, I see myself in them, to a lesser degree of course, for I have not gone through what they have. Our roles could just as easily have been switched if my mother had stayed in Nicaragua.
I view this internship as my first tangible contribution towards my ultimate goal of being able to help society’s most vulnerable, and for that I am grateful.