Throughout my past co-op, I have experienced many interesting things, not only through my current position as an Executive Assistant with the Delaware Department of Labor but also with my experience with the U.S.-Mexico immigration process.
Last year, I submitted a post to Antioch Engaged about the tremendous pain that I felt both emotionally and physically when my sister and I went to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in order to attain our permanent residency in the United States. Although it ended with a positive result, there were so many unexpected twists and turns that were often difficult to swallow. If you would like to hear more about that journey, you can read my post here.
This year, I was lucky enough to return to Ciudad Juarez and watch my sister receive her permanent residency. Surprisingly, it was an experience full of hope, excitement, research, and development. It was the first time that I was able to see the city as a beautiful metropolis of cultural expression, likely due to the fact that I was no longer afraid of never returning to the U.S. and that the fear associated with the immigration process during Donald Trump’s presidency has eased with the inauguration of Joseph Biden. I was able to actually talk to others about their process, where they came from, where they are going, and what they are expecting to do for the country once they return to the United States.
I will be presenting more about my experience, including my interviews and findings about the immigration process, during my spring 2022 Spanish Colloquia Presentation.
The same questions that I would present to others while in Mexico would linger in my mind even after I returned to the States. I was reflecting on what I have done to better my community and, to be honest, at the time I didn’t know what to say besides that I am a college student who will someday be someone, but that wasn’t enough for me. This inner turmoil prompted me to look into what I could do while in Delaware for the rest of my co-op, which led to me applying for and later receiving a position at the Department of Labor in Delaware.
In the beginning, my title was a Claimant Relations Assistant, which essentially boiled down to responding to emails. I would read people’s personal stories about how they haven’t received benefits in months and how they were going to lose their homes, only to have to later email them back saying, “Due to the global pandemic, we have a 135+ day backlog for deputy assignments to cases. Please continue to file weekly benefits until a deputy has reached out to you … Best, Ulises.” This made me reflect on the true reality of the pandemic and how I felt I needed to do more for these claimants. I began asking questions about the programs for claimants and how decisions were made, which gave the executives and esquires I worked with faith that I could learn how to process claims and release payments. I can’t express in words how it felt to release payments to someone who had been waiting for benefits since 2020. Calling them and hearing their relief and appreciation made my job so much more fulfilling.
As I continued to climb the ladder within the Department of Labor and was eventually promoted to Executive Assistant, I was given more responsibilities, including making case decisions like a deputy, running business inquiries for the executive I worked for, and having conversations with State Representatives about unemployment insurance. This position allowed me to learn more about the unemployment process on a state level, while also analyzing the processes in other states. I have never had an experience where I was able to do so much in such a small amount of time. It is a true blessing to have been able to do this for my co-op.
The only downside to working in this type of environment is seeing the way in which states have failed people by having pieces missing from their policy puzzle. What I mean by this is that the average person’s life is worse because the government never implemented a plan B in case a pandemic struck the world and no one was able to work. Furthermore, it’s difficult to know that some states support their unemployed citizens through an employer tax while some states are still taxing employees instead. There are so many ways in which the government could run more effectively and communicate more efficiently that would improve our country, which is part of the reason why I feel so blessed to be able to help people on a daily basis and work with people who devote their lives to giving back to the community.
Photo credit: https://52perfectdays.com/