Editor’s Note: Each summer Penn Law students hone their skills through a wide array of private and public sector internships across the country and around the world. Generous financial support and fellowships for international and public interest work enable students to pursue diverse assignments in the United States and abroad. This post from Michelle Mlacker L’20 is one in a series of firsthand accounts detailing how students’ summer employment opportunities are preparing them for their legal careers.
Mlacker is from Miami, FL. She attended the University of Miami, where she received her Bachelor of Arts. At Penn Law, she is the Vice President of the Latinx Law Student Association (“LALSA”).
This summer, I am interning at the Executive Office for Immigration Review (“EOIR”), an office within the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”). The EOIR is responsible for adjudicating immigration cases for respondents who have been placed into removal proceedings by the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”). I am located in the Philadelphia Immigration Court, one of the fifty-eight immigration courts in the United States. On my first day, I was given my first assignment: to draft an opinion for an immigration judge granting a respondent’s application for asylum. Also on my first day, I got to sit in on a removal proceeding and observe the interaction between the DHS trial attorney and the Respondent’s attorney. Since then, I have learned how dynamic the practice of immigration law can be, especially when there is a change in administrations. For example, currently, some grounds for asylum claims are in flux. As a result, particular claims that were previously recognized as potential grounds for a grant of asylum are now up for debate and further legal analysis.
The clerks at the EOIR treat the interns like members of the team, patiently explaining complicated and intricate legal concepts so that we can write legally sound opinions. The immigration judges also willingly explain their rationales for granting or denying a Respondent’s application for relief. Although the Philadelphia Court sees a considerable number of cases from Central America, I have also observed hearings where the immigrant is from Cameroon or Jamaica. The immigration agenda for the current Administration continues to alter the landscape of immigration law. My work at the EOIR has given me insight into the ongoing debate between those championing immigrant’s rights and those seeking a stricter policy for entry and the right to remain legally in the United States.
In addition to providing us invaluable feedback on our writing, the clerks also scheduled various summer field trips and events for us to attend throughout the internship. We took a field trip to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office to hear from one of Enforcement and Removal Operations (“ERO”) Supervisory Detention and Deportation Officers. He explained to us how the officers carry out missions for some programs like Secured Communities. We also heard from a staff attorney at Friends of Farmworkers (now called “Justice at Work”) who founded the “Notario” Fraud Project—a project that provides free legal assistance to victims of immigration services fraud. This DOJ internship has been and continues to be an intellectually stimulating and enlightening experience. I look forward to building upon my analytical skills as well as deepening my understanding of how administrative agencies operate by taking administrative law at Penn Law.
– Michelle Mlacker