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Public Interest Law Project

Lindsey O’Neill

September 15, 2015

ABA Commission on Immigration

As a 2015 PILP stipend recipient, I was afforded the opportunity to intern at the American Bar Association Commission on Immigration in Washington, D.C. this past summer. The ABA Commission on Immigration advocates for full due process rights and fair treatment of immigrants within the United States. In the context of detention, the Commission on Immigration played a key role in the negotiations and drafting of the Performance-Based National Detention Standards and currently works daily to implement these standards by filing complaints on behalf of immigrant detainees and reporting on conditions through delegation visits to facilities. Furthermore, the ABA is the only organization in the country that accepts calls from all 250 detention centers across the nation.

My legal clerkship with the ABA Commission on Immigration further solidified my commitment to a career in immigration law, and better equipped me with the knowledge and experience to successfully advocate for immigrants’ rights. As a legal clerk, I assisted immigrant detainees on a daily basis with immigration proceedings by identifying legal issues and providing them with the appropriate legal materials. Several detainees were susceptible to ineffective counsel, and prolonged detention. As a result, I developed and coauthored two legal guides for pro se detainees on filing a motion to reopen based on ineffective assistance of counsel, and prolonged detention habeas corpus petitions. In addition, I assessed and drafted complaints regarding detention center conditions on issues such as administrative segregation violations, emotional and physical abuse, and religious freedom.

While I had many life changing experiences during my time with the Commission, two stand out: The phone call I received from a detainee I assisted informing me that he won his case and was released, and secondly, my visit to a detention center on the East Coast where I toured the facility for an investigative report and individually met with detainees.

Ultimately, I am grateful to PILP because it enabled me to afford my internship with the ABA Commission on Immigration, which provided me with invaluable experiences and opportunities in my development as a future lawyer.  

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