Amytess Girgis - Summer 2019
As an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan interested in going to law school, I was drawn to MIRC because I felt it would give me good insight on what it means to be an immigration attorney. I certainly did get this insight – but my summer at MIRC taught me so much more.
My responsibilities at MIRC primarily consisted of legal research, brief-writing, client phone intake, and other client interaction (such as helping clients apply for naturalization). I felt it was the perfect balance of academic challenge and client interaction. Above all, the breadth in my work allowed me to understand just how many pieces go into the outcome of any one immigration case – and how those pieces might be moved in the favor of a client.
That’s because to work at the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center is to sit directly at the intersection of law, policy, and politics. It is to understand viscerally the ways in which some of Michigan’s most vulnerable communities depend heavily on the law - and the degree to which poorly written laws often fail them. If you cannot identify with the experiences many of these clients are facing, working at MIRC roots in you a visceral empathy that likely won’t be shaken once you get your degree or move “up” in the world. As a Michigan native, understanding communities in my state at a level I hadn’t before was also an incredibly powerful experience. The lessons about our collective human experience I learned from helping clients write declarations, going to court and watching clients argue their case, and distilling clients’ struggles into Briefs for the court are far more valuable than any legal knowledge I could acquire.
That being said, I also acquired a ton of legal knowledge! As someone with very little legal background, I learned many of the specifics of Immigration Law in a way I imagine is rare for undergraduates to do. I also learned more broadly how attorneys tend to use and leverage the law in Court – knowledge that applies to all areas of law, not just Immigration Law.
Perhaps the best part of my time at MIRC was getting to know the phenomenal team. As you might imagine, one has to be a special kind of person to work in Immigration law. The attorneys and other staff at MIRC were kind, patient, and always open to questions or concerns. I learned so much from them about their work and about how they live their lives in order to sustain the work. They genuinely want you to get the most out of your experience, and I can’t say enough about how much I learned from these genuine, caring people.
Whether you are interested in law school, politics, policy, social work, grassroots organizing, or a slew of other professions, working at the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center is nothing short of invaluable. I absolutely can’t recommend it enough!