“It’s not easy work.”
Angelina Saldivar, a paralegal in the Immigrants and Worker’s Rights Practice Group, would not be the first – nor will she be the last – person at LAF to say this. Hard work is never an excuse in legal aid though; it’s an incentive.
“We have to be responsible for ourselves and for each other. If you just go through life only doing what is best for you and throwing everybody else under the bus that is not a community. You are not building a community, you’re not strengthening the communities around you, and things will start falling apart around you. It can’t just be about you. I’m very, very passionate about making sure that my choices – whether professionally or politically or just in my every day life – reflect this idea that I am working on, myself. I am working to become a productive, established member of society, but I also want my community around me to be the same, to do the same.”
Working with a clients that are usually migrants by job definition, Angelina’s lines of community fall far outside the Chicago metro area and suburbs. Her commitment to legal justice takes her into outlying rural areas, sometimes into cornfields or to an address where a company or workers may or may not be found.
“Cities are hubs of resources. As soon as you’re out in the suburbs, or even further out in rural areas, it starts falling apart. Isolation will put your life in an awful place. We can help you, there are legal services, but you might never have known about them if we hadn’t been out here seeking you out. Leafletting, word of mouth, it’s very slow, tedious work and it often feels like you work all day long and you really don’t see anybody, but you’ve leafletted all of the grocery stores, the laundry, a trailer park where you suspect workers might live. Doing outreach to these incredibly isolated communities can feel very daunting and exhausting, but there’s really no other way to reach them. ”
It’s a lot of foot work, and a lot of going on faith, but Angelina knows it is absolutely necessary in order to reach one of our country’s most exploited populations. And she sees the return in the LAF office: in the case files on her desk, but also in the knowledge that someone, somewhere, has found that leaflet when they needed it most.
“It’s not easy work” Angelina repeats, “But LAF is a place of dedication.”