By Rachael Sparacino ’22
Ever since I was pursuing my undergrad degree, I knew I wanted to be an immigration attorney. One of the driving factors that led me to law school was my desire to become an immigration lawyer so I can help those who want to come to the United States. During my first year at the University at Buffalo School of Law I had the opportunity to intern in the legal department at Journey’s End Refugee Services (JERS) during my spring semester, before the Covid-19 Pandemic. I loved my time at JERS, even though it was cut short, which is why I was excited for the opportunity to spend this summer there again. I was fortunate enough to receive financial support through the Joseph Antonecchia Fellowship for which I am extremely grateful. I wish to thank the donors of this fellowship who made my experience this summer possible.
During my time at Journey’s End this summer, I had the privilege to see first-hand the benefits that pro bono lawyers and the public interest sector can do for those who need it most. Being able to work there was truly an inspiring experience. I was able to see the good that was coming out of the work I was doing. The people who go to JERS for help are some of the people who really need it the most; they are often refugees and are below the poverty line. Many of them have had to leave everything they had to come to the United States for their own safety. These refugees often face various levels of trauma. The ability to help people finally feel like part of the community and to stand beside them as they overcome all of the challenges they have to face while navigating the U.S. immigration system is truly inspiring.
While at JERS, I was able to intern in various areas of immigration law. I helped with cases ranging from asylum applications, green card applications, and the occasional naturalization case. I was fortunate to be able to work side-by-side with my supervising attorney, both virtually and in-person, to complete various applications for our refugee clients and their families. I had the opportunity to work directly with our clients and assist them with whatever concerns they had. During my time at JERS, I helped my supervising attorney with intakes for new clients, assisted with client applications, researched and wrote briefs, filled out complex forms, contacted clients, and submitted case packages to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
I have also been able to see the joy in people’s eyes when they were granted asylum or received approval for citizenship after years of work navigating a challenging system. Being able to see someone finally achieve citizenship or be granted asylum is truly a heartwarming experience. After this summer, I cannot see myself wanting to do anything else as an attorney. The experiences I have had at JERS have not only helped me get a greater understanding of the U.S. immigration system, but also solidified my passion for immigration law and desire to work in the field after graduating.
I am grateful for the fellowship that made my time this summer volunteering at JERS and am excited to continue to volunteer there during my final year at UB Law. I appreciate my supervising attorney and JERS for hosting me this summer and for letting me stay on and continue to help.
Name: Rachael Sparacino ’22
Name of Fellowship: Joseph Antonecchia Fellowship
Placement: Journey’s End Refugee Services (JERS)
Location: Buffalo, NY
One important lesson I have learned from this fellowship: “Being able to see someone finally achieve citizenship or be granted asylum is truly a heartwarming experience. After this summer, I cannot see myself wanting to do anything else as an attorney.”