Nov 28, 2007

How I Learned that Working for ICE/USCIS is Noble.

I have a classmate in my immigration class who works for ICE/USCIS (the new and "improved" pieces that make up what was once the INS after the massive administrative re-org that created the Department of Homeland Security). The person added useful insight and tips to supplement our very cool professor's practical information about procedural and strategic considerations for various visa classes.

Anyway, for the very last class, the professor finally gave her the ground to talk about what she did and I guess let us know of opportunities at USCIS/ICE. It was some of the most annoying 10 minutes I've spent in school this year. She started with her major disclaimer that she was a fierce advocate for refugee and other populations after graduate school, but she was looking for a job and ended up getting into the President's Management Internship program and eventually worked as an Asylum officer. While I had and still have friends who are asylum officers and tell me that it's important to have good people on the inside, this woman's myopia about how much of an uphill battle it would be to actually impact change was still quite surprising. She spoke in terms of "we" when talking about the Feds needing more lawyers, and seemed to fully take on the standard line that it's more important to be on the inside and that there are really fierce advocates behind the Federal curtain that go beyond the people advocating on the outside with other groups.

The best part was when she was talking about getting something with the DOJ and not acknowledging what a meltdown it's going through right now. It's amazing how people can be so co-opted by the message that by working for the Federal government, you are doing good for society without questioning what the Feds are actually doing. It's standard bureau-speak, but how do you convince someone who doesn't want to hear you?

And there are people like this all over the place - people of color, bright minds who actually have the right intentions in their hearts, but are either looking for "job security", some kind of respect from family who don't get what advocacy is, or maybe just something bigger (and better organized) than the typical nonprofit. I can't question people going into these things as much as I can question how they lose that critical edge - the ability to step back and say, "wait - is this what I think it is?"

It's not so much that they have to dissent every moment while they are working, because they won't be in that job for very long at that rate, but do you really have to become a cheerleader?


ab said...

I think sometimes you have to be a cheerleader in order to convince yourself you're doing some good. Give the girl a break! ;)

Rage said...

Yeah, I think that's a good point. More than her job or her enthusiasm, I think her blanket poo-pooing of activism got on my nerves.