From Fall 2016-Spring 2019, 18 undergraduate interns have participated in the LAP internship program. Interns speaking Spanish, Ewe, and Russian have been placed at the Rutgers Law School Immigrant Rights Clinic. Additionally, Spanish-speaking interns have worked with two of the Immigrant Rights Clinic staff attorneys. Notably, All the asylum cases which employed RU-N interns from Fall 2016-Spring 2019 were successful. The Rutgers Law School Child Advocacy Clinic, Rutgers Law School Health and Education Clinic, and American Friends Service Committee have all utilized Spanish-speaking interns each semester. Every internship site has continued to request interns through LAP each semester.
Since Fall 2016, over 100 student interpreters speaking over 8 languages have volunteered with the program. Students have assisted pro bono attorneys conducting know-your-rights, divorce, and DACA clinics in Northern New Jersey offered by the American Friends Service Committee, the ACLU, Volunteer Lawyers for Justice, the NJ Alliance for Immigrant Justice, the Rutgers Law Immigrant Rights Clinic and the Rutgers Law Child Advocacy Clinic. In addition, students have assisted with interpreting numerous client intakes, medical examinations, court appointments, and asylum interviews. Additionally, students have volunteered to translate hundreds of pages of legal documents, including: Individualized Education Plans, birth certificates, affidavits, transcripts, letters of support, event flyers, and more. LAP aims to provide a needed service to the community while developing students’ professional skills. Students ability to gain experience in professional-level interpreting and translating has opened new employment opportunities and educational paths. Previous interns have gone on to translate novels, work in nonprofit organizations that provide legal services to the Newark community, start side businesses interpreting and translating for law firms, prepare for the legal interpreting court exam, consider becoming certified as a professional legal interpreter, and apply to law school.
Quotes from previous Interns:
“Before agreeing to take the internship, I assumed I understood the child migrant crisis in the Northern Triangle region of Latin America based on anecdotal device and personal research. The internship proved the adage that books do not completely prepare you for real-life experiences. I had read Salvadoran and Honduran daily newspapers along with the work of Oscar Martinez, to get a more in-depth look at the everyday struggles of youth in Central America. I knew about the origins of both MS-13 and 18th Street Gang, I understood the dangers of saying no to their recruitment offers, I knew how high the levels of sexual abuse and femicide are in the area. I understood how little faith the Central American populace has in the national police force and their country’s judiciary branch to punish gang members for their crimes. I also understood the threat of extortion and kidnapping in Central America, especially for families known in their communities for receiving remittances from family members in the United States. However, it is completely different listening to testimonies as they cannot hold back tears at the loss of their brother, who was assassinated only two weeks prior to the attorney interview. The experience was an entirely great spiritual and educational reward. It humbled me in my understanding of translation, interpretation, and my overall Spanish vernacular. It has helped me gain confidence in speaking Spanish among a big group of people. The internship fomented a greater sense of purpose in my undergraduate studies at Rutgers and as a bilingual American. My whole life I have been living in a geographic area that has lived by the platitudes of being an immigrant haven, but with this internship, I finally felt that I had a part in facilitating the lives of those who have come here looking for a better life. I connected with both people who risked their lives for their own security and the security of their families, and also of those who had no choice but to leave everything that they once knew. ” –Rafael Osorio
“When I agreed to undertake this internship I didn’t realize how challenging and intimate this experience would be. At first glance, it seemed like a great opportunity to complete my minor in International Affairs and a great addition to my resume. While yes interpreting and translating has been a great opportunity it was also a challenging learning experience. Translating and interpreting in my native tongue, Ewe, to English and vice versa was difficult on its own but adding the fact that these were legal cases made the task even more tasking. I was very aware that every interpretation I made would impact our client’s life. Having to interpret on the spot wasn’t as easy as I first thought it would be. Although Ewe is my native tongue I found that the client would say phrases in Ewe I wasn’t familiar with. Ewe has many dialects and some dialects depending on what region you’re from has a stronger tone than others. Luckily for me our client’s dialect wasn’t too different from my own so for the most part I understood what she would share on the phone. ”-Halima Mahmoud
“Possibly the biggest challenge of this particular internship was perhaps the subject matter of the interviews that I had to interpret. Many times one has to deal with coarse language, and very traumatizing moments that the victim has endured, as an interpreter it is my job to interpret every word or rather meaning that the client says. These interviews take a toll on you due to the heavy subject matter, which is something that no one can prepare you for. Especially when there's no formal training. I'd have to say the most rewarding aspect of this internship would be the fact that I was helping someone. Another aspect is how much perspective it gives you on your own life. The traumas and trials that most of these detainees have to go through are truly horrific, and it makes one as the interpreter look at life in a different way.” -Raydel Rijo
“Interning at the Rutgers Child Advocacy Clinic was a really impactful and learning experience. It was definitely a different experience from past internships. However, it was still one of the best I’ve had so far, especially because I want to become an attorney. The greatest challenge was interpreting, especially legal terms, on the spot. It was difficult to interpret without preparing ahead of time. It was also intimidating because at first I was nervous and I would stutter a bit and leave things out, which is very unprofessional. I excused myself and just repeated what I had trouble with. Once I got the hang of it, it was a lot easier than I had pictured in my head. It was still very nerve wrecking every time I would go to the office to prepare in advance and walk in with the lawyer and sometimes law student. I was always afraid that I would have to interpret a conversation about a difficult situation and getting caught up in my own feelings. It was hard not to express myself and only be a buffer between the lawyer and client. Interpreting in general did make me nervous, but after it all was over it felt good being part of the team, especially when they helped me.” –Cindy Guaman
“Throughout the internship, I also learned more in depth about the political situation in our country and how it affects such a broad range of people. I learned numerous legal terms and the situations faced by immigrants attempting to escape from such detrimental conditions in their countries of origin. This internship not only allowed me to augment my work ethic, but also my sense of humanity, because there were very difficult cases that I participated in, that empowered me with a desire to help oppressed individuals. This experience allowed me to fully comprehend how challenging being an interpreter really is. Some people tend to think, that it is simply a matter of translating in between languages and that any bilingual individual can execute such a task. However, the reality is, that there are many things interpreting encompasses such as possessing a professional attitude, being unbiased in their particular situation and most importantly conveying the client’s story as efficiently and as accurately as possible.”-Raquel Queriga
“The most rewarding aspect of my work this semester was seeing intake meetings or phone calls that involved any delivery of great news such as someone finally having the school create an IEP for a child. One phone call in which I had to interpret for over the phone was specifically meant to record any progress made in an effort to obtain an IEP from the school for their child. Although it was a brief phone call and the client still hadn’t come to a solution, it was still a rewarding event because I could feel the joy in her voice over the phone. She expressed her gratefulness for having the H.E.A.L collaborative lend a helping hand in her child’s case. In that moment I truly felt as if I was making a difference in someone's life.” -Talianne Rosario
“The first opportunity to interpret came about unexpectedly. I had asked the three attorneys involved with the detention center program if I could tag along with their weekly intake trips to the Elizabeth Detention Center. Since they are both fluent in Spanish, I did not anticipate interpreting for them. I mainly just wanted to come and observe how they interact with clients and perform intakes. Fortunately for me, two law students from Cardoza Law School had also accompanied us to the detention center, and neither of them knew Spanish. The attorneys paired me with a student, and we spoke to a man at the center. He could communicate in English pretty well, but I insisted I interpret everything for him, especially when I noticed how easily he could misinterpret questions. I interpreted another intake case alongside the law student, as well.
The second time that I interpreted for AFSC was for an asylum interview at the Lyndhurst Asylum office. With little experience interpreting, I excitedly accepted the attorney’s request. Knowing the significance behind asylum interviews, I immediately felt some anxiety, and I knew I needed to prepare as best I could. I asked the attorney for any information in the client’s file. She was incredibly helpful in explaining the process and pointing out the things I should look out for the most. I read the documents, marking down all the words I did not immediately know and created a glossary to use for reference. I am relieved that I did. Although I was admittedly nervous for the interview, once I saw how nervous the client was, I tried to compose myself as best I could. For the actual interview, I did miss a few words. Luckily, the monitor on the phone and the experienced and friendly asylum officer were there to provide assistance. I was able to interpret for two hours straight, and it was exhausting. I hope to practice interpreting much more in the future.”- Stephen Guzmán