Summer Centered: Katie Leiferman ’20 Supports Immigrants
The anthropology major is spending her second summer supporting vulnerable parties in the immigration crisis on a CPGC-funded internship, this time working to provide accessible legal counsel for immigrants in Philadelphia.
The immigration crisis is swelling, expanding from the U.S.’s southern border into its courtrooms; Philadelphia’s courts alone await over 18,000 pending immigration cases for this fiscal year, a figure up threefold from 6,00 in 2016. Katie Leiferman ’20 is no stranger to aiding those most impacted—she spent last summer in Mexico City on an internship at Casa de los Amigos funded by the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC), but now she is taking her efforts into local courtrooms.
This summer, funded again by the CPGC, Leiferman is interning at Equal Access Legal Services, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit law firm that provides accessible legal aid to migrants.
“The majority of the work Equal Access focuses on is immigration law and deportation defense, so I spend a lot of my time helping with cases for people seeking asylum,” said Leiferman. “My day-to-day responsibilities usually consist of creating case files, updating our client database, researching country conditions, filing in immigration court, compiling exhibits, and writing cover letters.”
Although these paralegal duties find Leiferman supporting immigrants in a completely different fashion than she did in her past position with Casa de los Amigos, her pair of CPGC-funded internships have together broadened her understanding of the immigration crisis while also providing her with multiple opportunities to support the vulnerable individuals at the heart of it.
“Last summer, I was in Mexico City working with a lot of refugees who were en route to the United States,” she reflected. “Now, I am working with an organization whose clients have made the journey and are working through the legal system to try and gain asylum here in the United States. Equal Access Legal Services provided me with an internship that has allowed me to continue working with immigrants and refugees, but from a different side of the process.”
Leiferman’s position also serves as a praxis-oriented synthesis of her studies.
“I am studying anthropology with a minor in Spanish and a concentration in peace, justice, and human rights, so I am lucky to have found an internship that really ties together all three of the fields I am interested in,” said Leiferman. By bringing these areas of study together in her internship, she has developed an understanding of the types of positions that will allow her to continue studying her passions while having a positive social impact.
The position has not only given Leiferman valuable experience in the legal field, but has also given her, perhaps, a glimpse of her future.
“This work has given me an incredible amount of hands-on experience in the legal field,” she said. “I am grateful for the work I have been able to do because it has given me a taste of what I hope to pursue as I begin applying to law schools over the next year.”
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.