August 22, 2017

Rutgers Law student Joanna Gardner '19 answers five questions about her summer internship

1) What was your summer job and what were you doing there?

I worked for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) Pennsylvania, a non-profit that provides refugee resettlement and immigration legal services. The legal services department consists of several programs, including programs that help people get their U.S. citizenship, petition for family members, and serve immigrant youth. I worked with the domestic violence program, which assists immigrant survivors of domestic violence with their immigration cases. Over the course of the summer, I had the opportunity to work on each part of the process of filing an immigration application, including interviewing clients to put together applicant affidavits, collecting evidence and compiling exhibit lists, writing “cover briefs” that apply the facts of a case to the statutory requirements for different types of relief, and researching legal questions related to the applications being filed by the domestic violence team, such as the T-visa for immigrant victims of human trafficking and the U-visa for immigrant victims of crime who have cooperated with law enforcement. In addition to the work we did with our respective programs, all of us also assisted with bilingual intake, visited a detention facility for unaccompanied minors, observed immigration court, and interpreted for a child’s asylum interview, all of which provided a broader perspective on immigration law.

2) How did Rutgers Law School help you get this summer internship?

I applied for this internship through Rutgers’ Maida Public Interest Fellowship. Through this program, students can apply to up to three public interest employers who then come to campus to conduct interviews in January. The early application process meant that I knew my placement early in the second semester, making my life much less stressful! The on-campus interviews made the program extremely convenient. The program provides a stipend as well, which was an incredible blessing.

3) What activities are you involved in at law school?

I am involved as the community outreach chair of the Association for Public Interest Lawyers. I’m a member of the Social Justice Scholars cohort, and a staff editor on Rutgers Law Review. I will also be participating in the Hunter Moot Court competition this year and am a mediator for Rutgers' Pro Bono Mediation Project.

4) Where are you from? Where did earn your undergraduate degree?  Why did you pick Rutgers Law?

I am originally from Haddon Heights, N.J. I graduated from Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. Knowing I wanted to practice law locally, particularly in the South Jersey community, I wanted to choose a local law school. I have been so grateful to have the opportunity to attend such a great law school so close to home. But above all, it was the opportunity to participate in the Social Justice Scholars program that convinced me that Rutgers was the place for me. This scholarship and enrichment program for students with a commitment to public interest law convinced me that Rutgers was a place where my passion for public interest law would be supported and where I would have the chance to meet other likeminded students.

5) How will this summer's experience help you in your future legal career?

My experiences this summer have solidified my interest in immigration law and convinced me that it is the area of law I hope to one day practice. I built relationships with some wonderful immigration law professionals, which I hope to maintain going forward. I learned a lot about the complexity of the immigration system and the law, as well as the interplay between the courts and the administrative agencies that review applications for immigration benefits. All of these experiences will be instrumental in my legal career going forward, which I hope will one day take me back to working for an immigration legal services non-profit.

Rutgers Law Media Contacts:
Mike Sepanic (Camden); Elizabeth Moore (Newark)

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