Ayuda was created as a legal clinic at The George Washington University Law School. In 1973 it became a nonprofit corporation. In the 1980’s, after the political turmoil in Central America and the immigration reforms of 1986, Ayuda shifted focus to meet the growing need for immigration legal services.
Ayuda supports immigrants living in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. It offers legal, social, and interpretation services. Ayuda’s work includes legal representation for low-income immigrants and social services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and human trafficking.
70 percent of the clients are Hispanic and the remaining 30 percent come from Africa, Asia, Middle East and Eastern Europe. Through more than 40 years, Ayuda has been at the frontline in giving voice to immigrants, empowering individuals to lead safe, violence-free live.
Problem: Documented and undocumented immigrants have rights within American framework. Unaware of the existent remedies and overwhelmed by a complex immigration legal system as well as language barriers, immigrant families need support to access justice.
Ayuda provides legal representation for immigrant victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and child abuse. It also serves family and humanitarian-based immigration cases before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and Courts.
Project: Ayuda has two offices one based in D.C, and the other in Virginia. I am serving at Ayuda VA office. My project is to provide legal representation to immigrant victims of human trafficking, domestic violence/sexual assault, child abuse and asylum. My main activities include: interview clients, draft and prepare their statements, applications as well as petitions before the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) and Virginia Courts. I also prepare certified translations of legal documents in Spanish, English and French.
Beneficiaries: Low-income immigrants residing in Virginia. Most of them, victims of human rights violations.
Personal experience: I have been serving at Ayuda for two months. This has been both a big challenge and an amazing experience. Firstly, a challenge for two main reasons:
a) As foreign attorney, American Immigration Law could seem as complex as the “New black hole theory”. I am still discovering new forms from USCIS and eligibility categories under the Law (as NASA discovers new galaxies and stars).
b) We work with a vulnerable population. Most of them, victims of human rights violations either here or in their home countries. They have very hard backgrounds. This being said, the most difficult part of my fellowship is to listen how much some of the clients have suffered, and all the sad stories behind.
However, I really enjoy every day serving at Ayuda. It represents an amazing opportunity to help migrants living in the U.S. I learnt how to be empathic and effective at the same time. Listen them, their sufferings and concerns is highly important. However, the most important aspect of my role as legal fellow is to find a remedy to their situation. I cannot describe how amazing is when we receive good news for the clients. For instance, we recently received a notice of approval to bring two babies from an African country in conflict to the U.S., under humanitarian reasons. This is only the beginning and I have already so many beautiful stories to share. This is definitely the best part of serving in this project.