Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Split Summer

By Cynthia Liu

This summer, I was able to split my time interning for two very different places. At the Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review's Arlington, VA Immigration Court, I got to sit it on master calendar and individual merit hearings and draft 8 decisions throughout the course of the summer. All the interns were assigned decisions as cases came into the Judicial Law Clerk's office, and she basically served as a liaison between the interns and the six Immigration Judges sitting at the Arlington Immigration Court. Of course, we were also able to talk with the judges and discuss with them how they wanted to decide a particular case and present our opinions to them as well. Most of the judges had notes detailing how they wanted to rule on a particular case, but a lot of the times, interns could decide how particular issues within the decision came out. We mostly drafted asylum decisions, but I also drafted a few cancellation of removal decisions. Most of these cases followed the basic format of writing out the Respondent's and witness's testimony, listing documentary evidence, making a credibility finding, going through each necessary statutory element to see if the Respondent was statutorily eligible for the relief sought, and then a discretion section was added if the Immigration Judge was inclined to grant relief. Aside from working at the Court, our Judicial Law Clerk planned several field trips for us. We were able to visit the asylum office in Rosslyn and sit in on an asylum interview. This was especially enlightening because we basically witnessed how asylum applications were dealt with at the level below us. We also visited the Office of Immigration Litigation and were able to head downstairs to talk with some Department of Homeland Security lawyers who always appeared in Court opposite all the Respondents' counsel. Overall, the judges were very approachable, the judicial law clerk very organized and helpful, and the entire summer experience rewarding!

I spent the rest of my time interning at the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. USTDA is a small government agency that combines economic development goals with promotion of U.S. exports and commercial interests abroad. The agency funds small technical assistance or feasibility study projects ranging from about $200,000-$800,000 that basically set the stage for implementing much larger-scale projects to be funded by international development banks such as the World Bank, USAID, etc. The general structure of a project involves the agency delegating funds to a foreign grantee/client who will benefit from the project. The grantee/client then chooses (whether through open competition or through other means) a U.S. company to act as a contractor in carrying out the project/study. USTDA then transfers funds directly to the U.S. contractor in installments on behalf of the foreign grantee according to performance milestones that must be completed. During my internship, I helped review contracts and grants, research legal issues that came up from appropriations to Peru's treaty law, and process Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. I was able to take part in weekly Office of the General Counsel meetings and even occasionally got to sit in on Project Reviews where each region's country managers and/or regional directors would present memos with new project ideas in their region. I've definitely learned so much and really honed my research and writing skills. This internship has sparked my interest in international trade and development even more.

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