Interning for TRII has provided me with an opportunity to observe and participate in civic engagement. I mentioned in my first blog that I was assigned the task of conducting research on recent changes to the law proposed by the Department of Homeland Security. I have also been doing research on future asylum seekers who would be negatively affected by the rule change. Based on this research, I have been helping the Institute to prepare its comments on the rule change. After I completed my individual research and finished my own comments, I was assigned to organize a writing workshop on behalf of TRII to mobilize more people to write and submit their comments by the deadline to support asylum seekers.
This is truly an experience where I was able to utilize the network I developed at Brandeis and the organizational skills developed from running the Brandeis debate team: I organized and prepared resources essential to writing professional and effective comments, and I reached out to hundreds of people at Brandeis and beyond. The event ended up drawing people from across the state who did not know about the proposal. Watching them learn about the issue and submit their comments was fulfilling and inspiring.
Helping to organize this event reminded me of what I learned about civic engagement in my classes Civil Rights and Civil Liberties: Legislative Framework with Professor Breen and Deconstructing War, Building Peace class with Professor Gordon. Although those classes share different content, they both emphasized the importance of civic engagement in terms of legislative reform at the national and international levels. The mobilization of the public is key to frame the policies that fit the best interests of the public. And, from my intern experience, I observed that probably the most severe obstacle toward that is to get people involved in the first place. Many people didn’t know about the proposal, or they lacked the knowledge to post a valid comment. It becomes especially difficult when the government only allows a limited time period to accept comments from the public. Therefore, it becomes really important for third party players, such as non-profits, to use effective means to mobilize the public.
For the upcoming project, I was assigned to help mobilize the public to comment on a draft report formed by the Commission on Unalienable Human Rights established by Mike Pompeo. The report, after being finalized, will have a significant influence on U.S. foreign policy on the matter of human rights. The public has only fourteen days to make comments on it, and I am looking forward to helping organize more workshop events in the future to help raise awareness. Although the internship was initially supposed to be more legal-issue oriented, considering the effects of the pandemic, I find that doing advocacy work is meaningful and helpful as well. For the rest of my internship, I still wish to participate in specific immigration cases if I am given the opportunity.