Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

This is the part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2021 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Emma Davies, COL ’22, a recipient of the Turner Schulman Human Rights Internship Grant

In my past internships, I have had the wonderful learning experience of working with refugees and immigrants at local immigration social service organizations. In Summer 2020, I was able to work on the Survivor Services team at the Nationalities Service Center, in part due to a generous Summer Grant from College Services. Through these opportunities, I began to see the ways in which immigration policies and procedures can facilitate the transition that many immigrants make in order to lead empowered lives in the United States. I also began to notice the various barriers that many immigrants and refugees faced in reaching their goals of independence and security in the United States. I became particularly intrigued by the dynamics by which immigration programs in the United States can aid non-citizen survivors of crimes, trafficking, and domestic violence, and unfortunately, the personal and institutional barriers that prevent these survivors from attaining these benefits. When I stumbled upon the internship position on Handshake for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Office with their Immigration Section, I knew that I had to apply. The position offered an incredible opportunity to explore the world of immigration policy and the promotion of civil rights and civil liberties in the Federal government. When I was offered the position, I was extremely excited, yet trepidation about accepting an unpaid position in lieu of a paid opportunity. The Turner Schulman Endowed Human Rights Internship was monumentally helpful in making this opportunity possible for me by covering rent and other daily expenses.

As an intern for the Immigration Section, I was introduced to the world of policy and procedure-making at the Federal level where I saw how policies and practices were implemented in the various DHS offices to uphold civil rights and civil liberties, how collaboration occurred across offices and with public stakeholders, and how the public and workforce was informed of civil rights and civil liberties protections. One of the major focus areas for the Immigration Team of the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Office is in advising the development of policies, practices, and procedures for humanitarian immigration programs. Humanitarian immigration programs and policies cover the scope of immigration programs and policies meant to protect particular classes of immigrants who are in dire need of assistance. In these cases, immigration can serve as a powerful means of providing security. These humanitarian programs protect refugees and asylees, survivors of serious crimes, human trafficking and domestic violence, among other populations in crucial ways. Sitting in on policy meetings, assisting in research, and hearing from stakeholders, proved essential to filling in the gaps in my own knowledge on how the policies, programs, and procedures that shape the experiences of refugees and immigrants are developed.

My co-workers were extremely instrumental in creating a positive and instructive internship experience by tasking me with a variety of projects that covered their respective policy focus areas. Due to the size of the team, I was able to work on a variety of policy areas, such as detention, anti-human trafficking, forced marriage, and gender-based violence. Throughout the internship, I assisted in developing training material to be used for various employee trainings and Webinars on various topics that concerned the promotion and protection of civil rights and civil liberties for immigrants. As I became more familiar with the department, I was able to independently work on projects to improve the efficiency of the workplace by creating organizational tools and by workshopping how the office used pre-existing programs and tools. In addition, I researched into scholarly articles in order to supplement policies, comments and guidelines.

As I reflect on my career goals and start my senior year at Penn, I cannot help but feel inspired by my internship with DHS and incredibly grateful for the Turner Schulman Endowed Human Rights Internship Award. This experience re-affirmed my interest in the intersection between immigration and humanitarian concerns. I gained invaluable exposure into the workings of the Federal government. By doing so, I gain awareness in how immigration operates at the national level, which complements experiences working at the local level. This summer has solidified my desire to work in immigration law and I plan to apply to law school in order to take this next step. Due to this
internship, I seek to work in spaces that address the ways in which immigration law can help address the humanitarian concerns faced by survivors of human trafficking, gender-based crimes, political violence and refugees and asylees.

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