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What are some careers available in social justice and social activism for immigration? Do I have to become an immigration lawyer to help?

I'm currently a high school senior on my way to college. And immigration is a topic I'm passionate about. I'm very interested in pursuing a career in social justice that will improve and impact the lives of immigrants living within our country. I know that many people tend to pursue careers in immigration law. But I was wondering if there are any other careers outside of law that could help the cause. I'm not sure if I have what it takes to become a lawyer.

I also love math and foreign languages. So, what would be a good language to learn if I were to go into immigration, besides Spanish? (I'm bilingual.)


immigration immigration-law social-work social-justice foreign-languages activism activists non-profit humanitarian human-rights rights

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Heather’s Answer

Social justice and social activism are great career options...and working on the issue of immigration is really important. You don't have to become a lawyer to help. There are lots of roles in organizations that help immigrants. For example, you could work on fundraising, or communication or financial management or software engineering at an organization that helps immigrants. Or, you could be a social worker that helps immigrants get acclimated and find the resources and services they need. Or, you could work for the government in a role that helps immigrants get acclimated and settled. There are also organizations that help refugees and those seeking asylum. So, that's the long answer. The short answer is that you don't have to get a law degree to be super helpful in the field of social justice.

Heather recommends the following next steps:

Here are some organizations you might be interested in finding out about. (I'm in NY so most of them are here...but that are organizations all around the country.) ACLU, Immigration Advocates, University Settlement, International Rescue Committee, Catholic Charities, National Immigration Rights.
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Tiffany’s Answer

Hi Yasmin,

There are many ways you can impact immigrants living in the United States. A few thoughts come to mind:

1. Have you considered teaching? Many immigrants and refugees attend public schools within the United States, and there is always a need for English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers. You would be impacting immigrants through education while applying your bilingual skills. You may even have the opportunity to teach math to ESL populations depending on where you work and the school's needs. Public education is a huge social justice issue in our country.

2. Many non-profit or non-governmental organizations exist to advocate for social justice and have a variety of personnel who work for them. A quick Google search of "immigration nonprofits tennessee" led me to the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition website. Here are some of the jobs and internships they're currently hiring people to do:

3. Working in higher education as an admissions counselor might be of interest to you as well. Most colleges and universities are trying to increase the diversity of their student bodies, so they're making a concerted effort to recruit historically marginalized populations (immigrants, or international students, included). The admissions process can be daunting, so you could provide support to students and their families. Another option in higher education would be to serve in an institution's cultural center, advocating for inclusion on campus and supporting immigrant students throughout their collegiate journey.

These are just a few ideas. At the heart of whatever you do is your passion for and dedication to immigrants in the U.S. Your degree is only ONE aspect of who you are and how you can make a difference.

Best of luck to you as you explore your options and discover the possibilities that await you!