Post by: Sherri Sturgeon
As July began, it was hard to comprehend that were still in 2020. It felt as though the last 6 months had somehow morphed into years. Through the curveballs the last few months have thrown Americans, and the world, seemingly minor issues of “who will I intern with this summer” have felt unimportant in the grand scheme of all that is going on. Between a global pandemic and national social and racial upheaval, these last few months have taken a toll on all of us, and the need to check a box for a resume, for an academic program, has felt insignificant by comparison. But this is the precise moment for why the Center for Global Justice exists: “to seek justice for the world’s downtrodden – the poor, the oppressed, and the enslaved.” And an internship through the Center is far from insignificant.
My name is Sherri Sturgeon and I am a 3L at Regent University. It is through the Center for Global Justice and its unwavering commitment to its mission of justice that I have the honor and privilege to intern with Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, Texas. An organization whose work coincides beautifully in this pivotal and historical moment, their motivation is simple: “if you want peace, work for justice.” In just the first few days of my internship, I already saw so clearly the depth of their commitment to this mission.
As these times have been tumultuous for quite literally the entirety of humanity, immigrants and those whose lives were already in disarray pre-COVID, are finding themselves not only susceptible to an infectious disease, but an ideological disease as well. In the midst of concerns for the generation population (and rightfully so), there has been a decrease in concern for those left completely defenseless: immigrants. In ICE detention centers COVID numbers have increased, children have died while separated from their parents, and individuals seeking freedom from brutality in their own nations have been welcomed at America’s borders by being placed in detention centers or detained in camps outside the border, where kidnapping, trafficking and COVID run rampant. In this atmosphere of hopelessness is where Las Americas steps in.
A nonprofit immigrant advocacy center, Las Americas has existed for over 30 years, seeking to humanize immigrants and shed light on the cruel realities of the American immigration system. In the current environment, their work is more crucial than ever, as the current administration continues to build a legal wall to immigrants and a pandemic leaves these hope-seekers vulnerable and utterly defenseless.
The team at Las Americas works endlessly to see that the lives of immigrants are not reduced to numbers, to political maneuvers, or left as an issue in the backdrop of our nation’s “bigger” issues. In handling cases ranging from deportation defense, asylum assistance, refugee aid and basic immigration applications, to advocating for trafficking victims, rights of immigrant children, filing federal lawsuits to demand humane treatment in ICE detention facilities and pushing back on current administration policies that encourage immigration courts to deny asylum petitions, Las Americas is adamant in one thing: the humanity of immigrants. Their focus at the core of all they do is on this one truth, a truth that the present state of the world has brought into full view for so many of us: we are all uniquely, and innately, of a similar, valuable, human character that is worth advocating for the freedom and well-being of. Just as nations and governments seek to defend their people from a pandemic, Las Americas is engaged in the work of seeking to defend and fight for justice for the downtrodden, the poor, the oppressed, and the enslaved who have found their way to America’s borders.
Since the beginning of my work with Las Americas, I had little doubt as to the significance this internship would have upon my future work as an advocate for justice, as this is so much more than checking a box on my academic career checklist. Indeed, the significance of the work that I had the pleasure of supporting was much more than an internship, but a step on the path towards justice and peace.
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice Intern. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.