Janina Calle ’21: ACLU of Pennsylvania

Name: Janina Calle
Class Year: 2021
Major: International Studies
Hometown: Trenton, N.J.

Internship Organization: ACLU-PA
Job Title: Legal Intake Intern/Immigration Intern
Location: Philadelphia

What’s happening at your internship?

For the past few months I have been able to do both collaborative and meaningful work with community members and the staff at the ACLU of Pennsylvania. My work has consisted of reviewing intake that is sent to us either through letters, voicemails, or e-complaints, as well as working with Vanessa, the immigration fellow. As an intake intern, I have been able to review complaints that have been submitted to us from a plethora of people facing various issues. I have been trained to provide the best referrals for those cases in which we are unable to support. There have been a few complaints that have come my way that have led to further investigation given their high priority in regard to civil issues being violated. With Vanessa, I have done a lot more personal work that involves speaking with predominately Spanish-speaking people to receive their report on what occurred during police or even ICE interactions in the state of Pennsylvania. In addition, this summer a suit has been released against the Pennsylvania State Police for illegally enforcing immigration law, which has given me a glimpse into how the ACLU-PA uses its resources to gather information and ultimately decide which cases to take on. During the press release for the suit against the state police, I was able to travel to Harrisburg to further assist Vanessa and hear some of the clients on the case talk about their experience.

Why did you apply for this internship?

The opportunity to work with the ACLU presented itself through the Career & Civic Engagement Center as one of the organizations they were collaborating with. Given that I was already working with the ACLU-PA during the spring semester through my praxis course with Professor Martin, which focused on promoting change through service, it seemed fitting to continue my work with them. The amazing team I was able to meet and work with during that spring semester, also made it easy for me to choose working with them this summer.

What has been your favorite part of this internship?

My favorite part of this internship has been able to see how different departments within the ACLU-PA office work separately and together at the same time. With such a large national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, I have learned that each affiliate focuses on issues that their state is dealing with, which ultimately allows each office to cater to its community. In addition, because I was able to work with the legal fellow I was able to do work surrounding some cases that involved Spanish-speaking clients who faced some discrimination from a government agency, either a police department, ICE or sometimes both. This specific interaction and work was most impactful for me because I felt like I was working to abet issues that my parents could’ve also been faced with.

Can you talk about the skills you are learning and why they are important to you?

One of the major skills I was forced to reinforce in my daily work consisted of effectively communicating with not only my supervisors but with other interns as well. During the moments I was doing intake work, it was vital to inform the other interns about whose case I was reviewing, since we were all working under the same database. In addition, I learned to seek out their help when I had a question or was stuck with providing a referral. Without this skill, there would have definitely been double the work to do.