A summer in public interest: Immigration and Impact Litigation at the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project
October 27, 2015
Our spotlights on current and former students who interned in the public sector will shed light on the numerous opportunities available to HLS students during the summer. Read this and other OPIA blog posts to gain better insight into what a summer public interest internship can really look like.
Eva Bitran, 2L, spent her summer at the American Civil Liberties Union national headquarters in New York City working for the Immigrants’ Rights Project. Most of her day-to-day work involved research and writing in support of the organization’s impact litigation efforts. Eva’s assignments included general research on legal concepts as well as specific tasks for current cases. These diverse projects allowed her to gain “perspective on the higher-up practice of impact litigation,” including elaborating general legal theories, deciding whether to bring a specific suit, developing strategies for challenging a discriminatory law, and collaborating with allied organizations. Although Eva had not studied constitutional law before her internship, she was challenged to write a memo on a 14th Amendment issue and found that “you can just teach yourself anything.” “The cool thing about working for the ACLU,” she said, “is that you develop skills to actually advocate for changes in the law, beyond the predictive writing that you learn in LRW.”
Eva described her supervisors, a mix of junior and senior attorneys, as responsive to her interests and happy to assign projects relating to specific areas she requested. They were also willing to informally “engage with career advice.” Eva enjoyed the collegial environment of the office, even the large “laptop sweatshop” where interns from across the office’s various projects worked and socialized elbow-to-elbow. The office also held regular programming for interns, including inviting former ACLU attorneys to speak about their current work and career paths, as well as brown bag lunches with current senior staff.
Eva explained that this internship would not be ideal for a student hoping to gain extensive experience with client interaction, direct legal services, or court appearances. Interns at this large office did have to be proactive to seek out feedback and advice from busy attorneys.
Eva’s interest in immigration law stems from her family’s history. An immigrant herself, Eva grew up in Mexico and the United States and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2008. Her family, Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain, made their way to Turkey and Chile before settling in Mexico in the 1970s. At HLS, Eva is on the board of the Harvard Immigration Project and leads its Community Training Team. She also participates in the Immigration and Refugee Clinic, conducts research on immigration law with Professor Deborah Anker, and serves as a member of the Board of Student Advisers. Eva is pursuing a joint doctoral degree in History, and plans to focus her dissertation on migration in North Africa. Eva will continue her work on immigrants’ rights at the Department of Justice in the Office of Human Rights and Special Prosecutions next summer, and ultimately hopes to practice immigration law and teach at a law school.
Written by OPIA 1L Section Representative Lily Axelrod