Suryah Aryaei, c/o 2019, University of California, Berkeley
"Nothing could have prepared me to work for the American Bar Association's Commission on Immigration. It was an emotionally taxing job that gave me insight into the real world cruelties that immigrants and refugees live every single day. Speaking to individuals on the phone every single day was both humbling and eye-opening to the injustices that current immigration policies have set in place. As a result of this internship, I now know exactly what I want to pursue in law school and beyond. My experience hit very close to home, as both my parents are refugees who were once detained. Had it not been for one pro-bono lawyer from Pakistan, I would not be where I am today. The most rewarding part of this experience were the bonds that I fostered with people who had no where else to look to for hope. Since I understand what it is like to be on the battered end of broken policies, I will pursue a path devoted to breaking down injustices in the way that I, a privileged America citizen, can. Both my manager and co-manager ensured that my time at the ABA was filled with compassion, dedication, and hard- work and because of them my heart is kinder to people whose stories I would have otherwise neglected to hear out. If I could ever have the privilege of working with the Commission on Immigration again, I will passionately take it on."
Juliet Day, c/o 2019, The George Washington University
My internship at the American Bar Association’s Commission on Immigration was one of the best internships I’ve had in college. My main responsibility was answering the detainee hotline, which, although nerve-racking at first, became very interesting and rewarding. I was able to interact with the detainees on a personal level and help them with various issues. The detainees were overall very thankful for our help and I really feel like I made a small difference in the lives of these people who are going through such a terrible time. Mr. Bob, Nicole and everyone else in the office were so helpful in teaching us and acting as our mentors. I was so impressed with how empathetic they were to all the detainees' situations and how hard they worked to help each of them to the extent they could. They regularly made time to teach and guide us and I think the skills I learned from them will help me in any future position I have. This position taught me a lot about how the immigration system currently works in our country today and it was amazing to work for the Commission on Immigration during a time where immigration is such a hot topic issue. I heard something in the news almost every day that related to my internship in some way and that made it even more enjoyable to work there.
Grace Paine, c/o 2017, Yale College
My internship with the ABA Commission on Immigration was one of the single most important experiences I had during undergrad in shaping what I wanted to do with my life. First, it solidified my decision to pursue public interest law after college; I haven't made it to law school yet, but my first year out of school I am working as a pro bono legal assistant for survivors of domestic violence in their civil and immigration matters. More than just shaping the constructs of a possible career path, though, my internship taught me a philosophy to approaching work in general. While one of the most rewarding moments of my summer with the ABA was when a caller reported that the materials and country conditions I had sent him had helped him secure withholding of removal, we knew that most of the callers, who were all going it pro se, faced extremely unfavorable odds. This internship taught me that it is always worthwhile to be the person standing in someone’s corner during his or her moments of crisis, regardless of the ultimate outcome. I remember one detainee telling me after our phone call that, after a long time of being treated with disrespect, he felt like he finally felt understood. I’m hoping that any future job I take will be centered on the same core principle: recognizing the humanity of those caught up in systems that deny it. Mr. Lang’s attitude toward mentorship is, at this point, legendary, but I will conclude by noting how valuable it is for young people entering the workforce during uncertain and insecure times to encounter one of the most compassionate and encouraging supervisors alive today. (That sounds like hyperbole; I do not believe it is.) I think every student participating in the internship has been given the opportunity to leave more convinced in his or her own potential to add value to our world.
Ericka Welsh, c/o 2017, Pepperdine University School of Law
Interning with the Commission on Immigration ended up being of the most crucial, impactful experiences I've had in law school. I left the office every day knowing that I had done something meaningful to help someone else -- whether it was providing important information about the law or just lending an ear to someone who's been neglected and ignored. And afterward, I came away from my semester at the ABA with a much clearer direction: I knew that I wanted to keep spending my legal career doing direct-service, client-centered work. I credit my time at the ABA with helping me realize my career path, introducing me to incredible mentors, an unparalleled crash-course in immigration law, and just generally making me a better person and advocate.