Emily Ma is a MAIR student who wrote this post last summer. She is currently interning at the U.S. Commercial Service in Taipei, Taiwan.
The course of my summer in Washington D.C. did not turn out as expected at all. I accepted an internship with the United States Citizen and Immigration Services under the Department of Homeland Security as a Pathways Intern. On the first day of the internship, I found myself assigned to the Refugee Affairs Division. Blindly diving into this internship, it has turned out to be a profoundly rewarding experience, and a potential turning point in my career.
A division that works rather under the radar (my supervisors have admitted), the Refugee Affairs Division is the adjudicating authority on all refugee applications into the United States. The RAD Office (as the US Government – USG – is so fond of acronyms), is comprised of several different sections, but I was the intern for the Refugee Corps. Refugee Officers within the Refugee Corps are sent on monthly details around the world to adjudicate refugee applications after they have been referred to the United States by UNHCR. I had heard about refugee resettlement within the US, and RAD is the final security check, pre-arrival.
The first project with which I was tasked was to organize and coordinate a large hiring surge of officers for the division. I organized resumes, collected letters of recommendation, and had the opportunity to sit in on several interviews.
After successfully completing the first project within the first three weeks working at RAD, my supervisors decided to send me to Turkey as a fingerprinter on the next detail. Despite the several setbacks due to recent events in Turkey, the US Embassy in Turkey confirmed that it was safe for our team to continue the mission. So, somehow, here I am writing this blog post in Turkey. I’ve been working directly (fingerprinting can be surprisingly difficult at times) with refugees, and the Refugee Officers on my team allow me to observe their interviews with refugee applicants.
Working with refugees and leaving the country had most assuredly not been in my plans when I moved down to DC this summer, but I guess it just goes to show that you’ll never know where life will take you.
P.S. Refugee Officers want to make it clear that refugee adjudications are made by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Refugee Affairs Division, not the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.