Works and Days



Citizenship and Legalization in Immigrant Communities: Portland based Immigration Advocacy, McGill Lawrence Internship Award, Francisca Garfia

This summer, McGill Lawrence Internship Award recipient Francisca Garfia, '17, Anthropology, worked with the portland-based immigrant rights organization CAUSA. Read ahead for her impressions:

As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, the struggle for legalization in the immigrant community has been central to my upbringing; I knew entire families who feared the separation of deportation, I had friends who were unable to attend college due to their legal status. This familiarity with the human side of illegal immigration led me to Causa, Oregon’s leading immigrant rights advocacy group. Causa services the Pacific Northwest immigrant community by educating them on their rights and opportunities for legalization. One way they do this is through community workshops; Causa provides access to legal forms and low cost attorneys since the legalization process is complicated and costly. The majority of my summer internship centered on a workshop, which not only served as a way to support the local immigrant community, but also pledged our solidarity to immigrant communities nationwide.

When I began planning this internship, President Obama had recently announced the expansion of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans). Immigrants across the nation were abuzz with the news; if enacted, millions of undocumented immigrants would be legalized! However, the celebration was short lived as Texas and other states filed a lawsuit that prevented the implementation of the programs. As a result, immigrant advocacy groups that had hoped to help people become “DACAmented,” now had to focus their efforts on convincing the fifth circuit court that DACA was vital to these communities, and that these individuals were Americans despite their lack of documentation. 

Causa: Protecting Immigrant Rights, McGill Lawrence Internship Award, Cristobal Mancillas

Cristobal (3rd from left) working a summer internship with Causa

I spent my summer traveling around Oregon while working for Causa, the largest network of Latinos in the Pacific Northwest. In this capacity I was given a great degree of independence and charged with a variety of tasks, from administrative tasks such as statistical analysis and the incorporation of the Voter Activation Network as a hub for directing volunteer and campaign management to activism in the form of voter registration, civil rights organizing, and immigration legal services. My primary work was to advocate for Measure 88 on the upcoming ballot, also known as the Safe Roads Act. This measure would reduce barriers to accessing insurance and grant thousands of people the opportunity to apply for a driver card regardless of citizenship status. I found this experience to be a meaningful supplement to my Reed education, so I have worked to establish a federal work study contract with Causa and Reed College.

Working with Causa has changed the way I think about politics, identity, and everyday experiences as well as the way these three facets of life interact with each other. I realized, as I talked to people on the streets, in supermarkets, Jaripeos, concerts and churches, that people of color face numerous obstacles that could (and should) be addressed by legislation. This led me to reflect on the role of politics as well as my own privilege. My coworkers were a huge inspiration to me because of their sense of purpose and commitment.  I saw people overcoming language barriers, and driving long distances after a full day of work in order to help shape the world they lived in. They weren’t just raising signs, they were raising voices. I came out of this experience wiser, more skeptical (only a little bit jaded) and more conscious of my own identity. My internship continues to impact me in the new ways as my academics endogenously fuel my passion for social justice.