Trinh Tran is a law student at Hofstra University, School of Law in New York. She is the former President for APALSA and interned for the Asian American Legal Defense and Eduction Fund (AALDEF).
I always had many questions about my parents' lives when they first came to America. This curiosity grew deeper when I was in Mali as a Peace Corps volunteer. Whenever I found myself being stared at by crowds of people or felt self doubt about speaking the local language, I wondered how my dad felt trying to speak English among fast paced Americans or my mom being taken aback by the sheer abundance of America. Even against the odds of feeling like outsiders; my parents made a life for themselves and turned their hopes into a reality. I know my own story could not be possible without the determination and fearlessness I have learned from my family. I draw on their strength in the service work I do.
I grew up in an immigrant community where streets were lined with authentic Vietnamese, Chinese, and Mexican cuisine and where I came home from school to a Vietnamese-only speaking environment. It was not until I left for college that I learned how unique and influential my upbringing was. I left California to attend college in Washington, D.C. There I sought out the Vietnamese communities first as a means to cope with being far from home but soon found a community with issues I could not ignore. There were youth choosing to join gangs over being seen as a foreigner and people who did not understand laws or know about public services that were implemented to protect them. I chose to take part in the local community because I saw parts of myself in the youth trying to make sense of their dual identity and parts of my parents in the hard working fathers and mothers trying to make ends mean. These experiences have deepened my commitment to working in public interest especially in the Asian American community.
The responsibility to be conscious of social realities that affect the poor and to take action has been a driving force in my decision to intern at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) during the summer after my 1L year. As an intern assigned to the Anti-Trafficking Initiative and Immigrant Access to Justice projects, I was able to combine my interests in local and international community work with the legal education I was gaining at Hofstra Law. I was given the opportunity to work under Asian American lawyers who to me, epitomized the true role of a lawyer: activist, counselor and confidant. I learned that as far as the social media has glorified the social-economic status of Asian Americans, many especially, immigrants, domestic workers, and the elderly, encounter injustices that require attention.
The best advice I received from a mentor of mine is how important it is to be at the table when important decisions are being made. I think there is no more important forum than the practice of law. I recognize working for the APIA community is not easy. I have learned that not everyone welcomes help, that there is no easy solution, and even the best intentions will not create positive outcomes. However, beyond the doubts and discouragement, the work is important because the opportunities that are created do improve people's lives. These are aspirations not of a naïve volunteer but of a dedicated advocate for social justice. I believe in the small victories of service work and that is the foundation of my dedication to the APIA community and what inspires me to continue on this career path.