Welcome to the Immigrant Victim Coalition’s blog. These bi-monthly blog posts are a sustainable way to keep service providers updated on the world around them in the realm of immigration and the diverse communities that make up South Carolina. Each post will have a guest blogger and keep the website’s guests up to date on various themes. If there is a topic you want to learn more about, or if you would like to contribute as a guest blogger, feel free to reach out to us!
My name is Emma Carter and I am a rising senior at Furman University pursuing Politics and International Affairs, Spanish, and Latin American studies. This summer I am interning with the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (SCCADVASA), and part of my responsibilities here include organizing and raising awareness for the Immigrant Victim Coalition (IVC). The goal of the IVC is to facilitate a co-learning environment between service providers, law enforcement, and immigrant communities in South Carolina. Between our Upstate, Coastal, and Statewide meetings, we aim to better the interactions between these diverse groups. This post will outline my experience working in the field of immigration and victim advocacy so far, summarized by three important themes I have discovered through my internships.
The spring semester of 2019, I was able to work with a professor at Furman for a free legal clinic called The Justicia Project. We helped immigrant minors apply for legal status in the United States through applications for continued presence, U-Visas, and T-Visas. U-visas are for non-U.S. citizens who have been victims of crime in the United States, T-Visas are for non-U.S. citizens who have been trafficked in the United States under the circumstances of force, fraud, and/or coercion, and continued presence is a status that permits the applicant to stay in the United States while their visa is being processed. That semester, my eyes were opened to a few of the horrific issues surrounding immigrant minors such as sexual assault and domestic violence. I was lead to apply for an internship at SCCADVASA to continue to fuel my passion for work in this field. I now have had the opportunity to work with both the Language Access and Human Trafficking Coordinator, as well as the General Counsel in my internship. Through working with both of these positions, I have learned several new things about immigrant victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Having access to trauma-informed interpreters is essential to this line of work. Because the people we work with have already experienced great trauma, they need interpreters who are culturally competent, and possess the vocabulary and demeanor to handle the intakes and interviews sensitively. Briefing and debriefing the interpreters is also key, making sure they are prepared for the type of situation they will be interpreting and making sure they can talk through their experience afterward to avoid second-hand trauma.
Between my two internships, I have learned how important it is to have knowledgeable and passionate representation for immigrant minors. Because of this, I am helping the General Counsel at SCCADVASA put together a guide for attorneys who represent these clients so they are able to have a reference when filling out forms, making decisions, and working with their clients on a regular basis. Even if these attorneys only do immigration work part time, it is essential that they have a reliable guide to refer to, making sure they are doing their best by their client.
Lastly, I have found it is a necessity to be open-minded in this field. After encountering many new cultures and people through my internships and my work with the IVC, I have learned to always be willing to learn and accept something new about the communities I interact with. This makes new experiences more fulfilling, and helps me expand my cultural knowledge. There is always so much more to learn, and through experience and knowledge comes the greater ability to serve, which I am excited to continue to do.