Last summer, I had the opportunity to intern at Pennsylvania Senator Robert “Bob” P. Casey Jr.’s office. This internship was an incredible learning experience for me as I was able to study firsthand how the people of Pennsylvania interact with their representatives, and how our representatives can serve us. The office I worked in hires five interns every semester to learn from the five different sectors that constituent service officers specialize in: Immigration, IRS, Social Security, Veterans Affairs, Housing, and Regional Management. I worked with those performing immigration casework.
As a constituent services intern, my primary responsibility was doing intake for casework as well as reaching out to an embassy, consulate, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of constituents. I assisted the immigration constituent services officers on asylum cases, green card applications, visa processing, etc. In addition to these daily tasks, I also worked on three different intern projects for the immigration sector. The first was compiling information about immigration and legal services that were affordable or free. Having these resources available to provide to constituents is vital for cases in which the office cannot assist. The second intern project I did was to create a visa glossary. The purpose of this glossary is to assist immigration constituent services officers and interns in being able to look up quickly different visas and have the necessary information about them. This task proved quite daunting. While U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has information readily available about different visas, the USCIS website does not have the full list of visas a person can apply for to come to the United States, only the most popular ones. I had to conduct outside research and look through USCIS publications to compile a comprehensive list. The last intern project I did was a policy investigation regarding the effects of the travel ban on the operations of Senator Casey’s constituent services officers. Essentially, I created a memo and briefing on President Trump’s travel ban. I read through the policy itself and took out key components that appeared relevant to the work the office does. I compiled these key points and expanded on them in a document that was presented to the constituent services immigration officers.
This internship hearkened me back to Templeton’s Justice class as I found myself considering the question, “What is justice?” Often, we expect those in power to be the administrators of justice, and certainly I got to be a part of this over the summer. However, there were also many cases that we could not help with because of separation of powers, a system created in order to protect justice. Sometimes these people were desperate, but my hands were tied. I wonder about the work of Max Weber, which we study in Modernity: Weber thought that increasing rationalization and bureaucratization would make us slaves of the systems we created. I certainly felt this way; I wanted to help people in unjust situations, but supposedly just and rational systems prevented me from doing so. As a student of philosophy, political theory, and sociology, this internship certainly gave me much to consider and aid my learning while also providing experience and skills that might prove useful in the future.
Suzi Staherski 2020 is a Templeton Scholar studying Sociology and Political Science. She is involved in Students Advocating for Gender Equality, the Multicultural Awareness Advisory Committee, and Residence Life, and is interested in philosophy, political theory, and social activism.