Learning Not to Take My US Citizenship For Granted

I began working at the Executive Office of Immigration Review (“EOIR”) – the Richmond Immigration Adjudication Center (“Center”) one week ago. The EOIR is a branch of the Department of Justice (“DoJ”). I have wanted to work for the DoJ since I can remember. Working at the EOIR allows me to combine my interest in immigration and international law with the opportunity to work at the DoJ. I know I want to work in international law when I graduate from law school in a year. Last year I interned at International IDEA; this year, after speaking to Professor Warren, I realized the benefits of working at a domestic internship that has an aspect of international law and international relations, especially when the domestic internship is at a government agency like the DoJ.

The Center at which I am working is essentially a remote hub. The judges zoom into courtrooms around the country when a judge is unable to conduct their hearing for one reason or another. There are over ten judges – with varying backgrounds – in the Center and thus I have a wonderful opportunity to network and ask questions about immigration law as well as career-related questions as I begin to look past graduation and the bar exam.

The Center has only been open for a year. One advantage to the young age of the Center is that it is still filling offices and positions; I thus lucked out and have a courtroom as an office all to myself. The office has two brand new screens and a big screen hanging on the wall with a webcam pointed at my desk, along with three microphones. The office is bigger than the Attorney Advisors I work for at the Center.  

The first couple of days I was settling into the office and my work routine, being introduced to the judges, setting up my account, and a crash course in immigration law, particularly asylum and cancellation of removal. I learned most of the immigration law in the immigration class I took in the fall semester. The longer I am at this internship, the more I realize how much I retained from the class and how comfortable I am with the law compared to what it would have been if I had not previously studied this specific law area. There are two other interns that are rising 2Ls so I am the only rising 3L. We are each assigned a primary Attorney Advisor to report to, ask questions to, and be assigned cases by.

My primary work focuses on writing decisions for the judges. The Attorney Advisor I primarily work with has been very helpful as I figure out how best to structure the decisions and be persuasive in my arguments. How the decision writing process works is that the judge of the case I am assigned states if they want to grant or deny the application for cancellation of removal, asylum, withholding of removal, or Convention Against Torture. I look over the information of the case before me to see how I can argue their point. Importantly, if I disagree with how the judge wants to rule, I can speak to my Attorney Advisor to argue my point of view. Due to the unique remote aspect of the Center, I have the opportunity to research case law and write decisions for cases in several different circuits. However, the most common circuits I am told that the cases will be are the first and fourth.

Just in the first week at the Center, I realized how much immigration law interests me. It makes sense in my mind; I can understand it and follow it. And most importantly, I feel like I can make a difference. As a legal intern with the EOIR, I am currently writing two decisions, which will be grants to relief from removal applications. To have the ability and knowledge to write a grant for a noncitizen to remain in the U.S. makes me so excited to come to work each day – despite the fifty-minute drive between Williamsburg and Richmond. So far, I have had the opportunity to watch two hearings where the judge granted asylum. As one judge said on the first day of the internship, seeing the excitement and pure happiness on the noncitizen’s face when they are granted the ability to remain in the U.S. puts in perspective how lucky we are to live in the U.S. and how we should not take it for granted.