As a summer intern at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, criminal justice major Manon Ferdani (class of 2015) got a close-up view of an immigration court and the legal system, inspiring her to pursue her goals of becoming a prosecutor and a judge.
Ferdani was an intern for the Miami field office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the investigative arm of Homeland Security, at the Krome Service Processing Center.
“As soon as I saw the opportunity to work for the ICE legal firm, I thought it would be a great experience,” said Ferdani, a senior and a member of NSU’s Undergraduate Honors Program. “I chose criminal justice as a major because this is what I’m interested in. Everything about the law fascinates me.”
“An internship with ICE provides our students with the opportunity to work with the federal government law enforcement agency and engage in a variety of litigation-related duties, including court attendance, drafting legal documents, researching criminal records, and preparing cases for trial,” said Jessica Garcia-Brown, J.D., LL.M., associate professor at NSU who helped Ferdani secure the internship.
“The internship also provides the opportunity to learn extensively immigration and criminal law from a substantive and practical perspective. These are tasks usually reserved for second-year law students,” Garcia-Brown said.
Ferdani spent much of the internship attending court hearings, writing motions, and researching or obtaining documents relevant to a detainee’s case.
“Every day was a little different,” she said. “On a typical day, I went to court in the mornings for the calendar hearings. This is when the detainees go before an immigration judge. The judge explains the charges against them and why they might be deported. They are given time to find an attorney or they continue while representing themselves.”
Ferdani helped the office prepare for the hearings by checking case files and contacting agencies to obtain any necessary legal documents, and in some cases, a detainee’s past criminal record.
“I wrote motions for summary affirmance, which explained why the Department of Homeland Security believed that a detainee should be deported. And I wrote motions to subpoena to obtain documents from other agencies.
“I also did a lot of research,” Ferdani said. “I learned a lot about immigration court and how it works. I learned that criminal court and immigration court work a little differently. In immigration court, the government does not provide attorneys to the defendants––however, they are given a list in order to find an attorney for little or no money and at no cost to the government. Sometimes the detainees do not retain attorneys, and they represent themselves.”
The internship is open to NSU students in the criminal justice, legal studies, and paralegal studies majors.
“This partnership with ICE came about when Andrew Brown, J.D., an adjunct professor at NSU and assistant chief counsel for the Department of Homeland Security, asked whether we would be interested in having our students intern at his office. We anticipate placing more students in these internships in upcoming semesters,” Garcia-Brown said.
Gaining hands-on experience and working with lawyers and judges in a fast-paced environment confirmed Ferdani’s decision to pursue law school and a career in law.
“This internship definitely helped me prepare for my future,” Ferdani said. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to law school. I wasn’t sure if I was capable of being an attorney. However, this internship boosted my confidence, and now I know this is what I want to do.
“I want to become a prosecutor. After that, I would love to become a judge. You never know where life will take you.”