Sharaelle Arizmendi, a recent graduate of the Department of Political Science at Northern Illinois University, was awarded the campus-wide Student Intern of the Month award for her summer internship in Washington, DC with the Office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Sharaelle worked for the USCIS Executive Secretariat within the Department of Homeland Security and described the experience as “a life-changing opportunity.”
Sharaelle’s position gave her unique access to observe and contribute to the behind-the-scenes decision making that takes place in government agencies. For example, she was able to witness the internal development of the Federal Registrar Interim Rules, memoranda being prepared for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rica, and the internal controversy surrounding the Immigration Reform Act. One of her most important weekly duties was compiling and editing information from other USCIS offices to produce an Official Weekly Report that was given to the Director of USCIS Emilio T. Gonzalez (pictured with Sharaelle at a Naturalization Ceremony at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which adjoins the White House).
Another of her responsibilities was opening constituent mail directed to executive branch officials including the Director of USCIS and even the President of the United States. In doing so, she compiled a report regarding the quality of responses the Customer Assistance Officers provided to the constituents and learned first-hand about the issues facing illegal immigrants. For example, she noticed a problem regarding FBI Name Check Applications, wrote a report, and briefed her supervisor who then relayed the information to the Director. Two weeks later, she read in the Washington Post about the difficulties the FBI was having responding to letters regarding name checks and felt proud that she was doing her part to bring the issue to light.
Sharaelle recently transferred to the office of Citizenship and Immigration Services in Chicago where she works in the Refugee Asylum office. “It is an amazing internship where I learn a lot of the many terrible country conditions and problems many people face in their own country and their reasons for seeking refugee within our country,” she commented. “It makes me learn the true value of being a citizen of this country.” Sharaelle works everyday except when she attends graduate classes. She is considering graduate school for Public Administration and would like to return to DC to continue her education and career. Sharaelle encourages others to follow in her footsteps: “I really loved my internship and would hope more students would take advantage of the Washington Center Program.”