Ian Di Pietro ’23

Rapid Defense Network, New York, NY

This summer I interned at the Rapid Defense Network (RDN), a start-up legal firm based in New York City. RDN provides legal assistance on a pro bono basis to immigrants facing imminent detention and deportation. RDN is a small firm (only three full time employees) so I was able to have a very intimate experience to work closely with the legal directors who have decades of experience in immigration court. I was also fortunate to work alongside another intern who is entering his second year at Cardozo Law School. Between my fellow intern and my supervisors, Gregory and Sarah, I had a great group of mentors to guide me through the tasks that were assigned to me.

I had a wide range of responsibilities this summer. I spent a good portion of my first month as an intern reorganizing RDN’s website, updating information on the site, and adding a volunteer page. I was also tasked with developing a plan to expand our organization’s social media following. I created content to post on Instagram. I also put together a list of popular accounts on Instagram and Twitter that have expressed interest in immigration justice issues. I created a template email to reach out to the owners of these accounts and ask for a shout out. However, my main project this summer was to create an organized system to draft and submit Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. RDN often requests information from the government to support our court cases, and we did not have a systematic process in which to do so.

Although working remotely posed many challenges, I was able to learn a lot during my three months interning for RDN. I became familiar with many aspects of immigration law in the United States. I knew about the cruel policies that have been adopted by the Trump Administration vis-à-vis immigrants, and just how terribly undocumented immigrants are treated in this country. I sat in on many court hearings and listened to our clients describe life in detention facilities during Covid-19. Undocumented immigrants, many of whom are detained without any or with minor criminal infractions, are being forced to live in close quarters with other detainees, unable to socially distance and unable to access necessary sanitary equipment. These detainees are helpless as they watch their cellmates get sick with and even die from the coronavirus.

Although I still don’t know if I want to attend law school after I graduate from Williams, my internship this summer has taught me a lot about the legal profession and about the amazing work that some lawyers, like my supervisors, are doing to make this country and this world a better place.

I would like to thank the Class of 1972 and everyone at the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for giving me this opportunity.