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 is one in a series of firsthand accounts detailing how students’ summer employment opportunities are preparing them for their legal careers.
Adam Garnick L’21 is a 2L from Philadelphia and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 2015. He is the current co-director of the Penn Law Immigrant Rights Project (PLIRP).
My passion for immigration law first developed while I was teaching in a predominately-immigrant community in Dallas, Texas before law school. Although I thoroughly enjoyed being back in the classroom as a student during 1L, I was looking forward to finally having a summer devoted to doing immigration legal work using the skills I acquired during my 1L year.
For the first two weeks of the summer, the indefatigable Professor Fernando Chang-Muy and I went to Honduras to give “Know Your Rights” presentations across the country. We spoke in seven cities, explaining the basics of immigration and asylum law to hundreds of Hondurans including professors at the country’s largest university, firefighters in a tiny beach town, and non-profit leaders. Beyond transmitting information, we also did a deep dive into both the factors pushing people away from the country as well as those pulling people to the United States.
Our project in Honduras greatly informed the work I am doing at my main internship, which is in Dilley, Texas. Dilley, a town of around 4,000 people, is home to the largest family detention center in the country. I am fortunate to be working for the Dilley Pro Bono Project (formerly CARA), which provides legal assistance to the thousands of women and children detained here.
As a legal intern, I am principally tasked with preparing women for their Credible Fear Interview (CFI) before an asylum officer. I also give Know Your Rights presentations, similar to those we did in Honduras, to orient families as to the confusing asylum process and their rights therein. I am also currently preparing a brief and oral argument to give to an Immigration Judge after an asylum officer gave our client a negative in the CFI.
Although it has been emotionally taxing to hear about the profound personal tragedies of these incredible women all while working within a system that seems designed to compound their suffering, I have found the work remarkably rewarding. Our clients are so kind and appreciative, and above all, the full-time staff and lawyers here are endlessly inspiring – they are like legal super-heroes, providing interns and volunteers with creative legal strategies and theories from a packed cubicle day in and day out.
My experiences at Penn Law have already prepared me well for real-life work as a lawyer. Legal Practice Skills (LPS) has served me well in helping me distill profoundly confusing legal concepts down to comprehensible information I can convey to clients. My doctrinal professors helped me cultivate an ability to think on my feet and give a clear and concise answer to difficult questions. Finally, my pro bono work with the Penn Law Immigrant Rights Project (PLIRP) and the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) laid a great foundation for my positively interacting with clients, especially in a second language.
I am so thankful for all the support the law school has given me in helping me put this immersive summer together. I am very excited to return for my 2L year and deepen my knowledge and impact in the ever-evolving field of immigration law.