October 27th, 2014 (Jupiter, FL) – Andrew Faris, a junior at the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University, recently had the incredible opportunity to intern for nine weeks with immigration attorney Aileen Josephs. Faris is double concentrating in political science and international studies, and is very passionate about the active immigrant community in Palm Beach County. “Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis once said that while we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable. Our immigration system is broken, and in order to address this issue we must first understand the immigrant community,” affirms Faris.
Faris first became interested in this internship after taking a team-taught course with Dr. Timothy Stiegenga and Prof. Mauricio Almonte in the spring of 2014. In “Latin American Culture and Civilization,” he had the opportunity to read a book by Dr. Stiegenga and Sandra Lazo de la Vega titled Against the Tide: Immigrants, Day-Laborers, and Community in Jupiter, Florida. This book explores how the town of Jupiter has responded to and addressed controversial migration-issues by building El Sol Neighborhood Center. El Sol has transformed the problem of an unsafe open-air day-labor market into a safe and productive resource center. Attorney Aileen Josephs played a large role in this movement, and the book devotes a whole chapter to her activism efforts at the center. Faris became very interested in Josephs’ work and asked her to speak at the Honors College during the Corn Maya’s Annual Immigration Day.
“Aileen Josephs is a private immigration attorney who has dedicated the majority of her professional career to advocating for the civil rights workers living in this area,” says Faris. Josephs has been named the Honorary Consul of Guatemala and has received the Martin Luther King Junior award for her activism. As her intern, Faris’ main responsibilities consisted of learning as much as possible about the undocumented migrant community and writing legal affidavits about their lives. He went to churches, community centers, and nonprofit organizations in an attempt to meet immigrants with family members lost to deportation. “During my internship, I spent the majority of my time working with one specific woman whose husband had been deported several times,” he says. According to Faris, this woman lived with her two teenage children in a single room, and struggled each day to support them. Working with a nonprofit organization, Faris was able to help this family move into a subsidized housing operation called the “Miracle House.” The Miracle House was constructed over the summer not only to house this family but also to serve as a small community center for migrant workers in the area.
Faris confesses that the most challenging aspect of this internship was coming in as an outsider and having to constantly explain what he was trying to do. “I can vividly recall one night where I had to attend a bible study of several hundred people and announce that I was there to listen to people’s stories,” he shares. The most rewarding aspect for Faris was knowing he was making a significant difference in a migrant community that most people do not know about. “I do feel like immigration reform is the civil rights issue of our time, and I am glad to have had the chance to be on the front line of our local political effort for reform,” states Faris. The stories he recorded throughout his internship have broadened and changed the way he sees the world. “I will never again take for granted the privileges I have as an American to get a high quality education like that offered by the Honors College,” he explains. Though these experiences took him out of his comfort zone, they were great opportunities for personal development.
Faris also had the opportunity to meet and have lunch with influential people like Tamar Jacoby, former editor of the New York Times, and Frank Biden, the United States Vice-President’s brother. At another event, Faris was interview by a national Spanish language TV news programs for a segment titled “Heroes of the Hispanic Community.” When asked in his Spanish Language TV interview what he would say to a high school student watching the broadcast, Faris encouraged them to go to college. “Throughout my internship experience, I have met many migrant workers who dedicated their lives to come to the United States illegally so their children could have the opportunity of an education that was not available in their native country,” says Faris. In light of this, he states that one should never take the opportunity to get an education lightly, it is something worth fighting for.
Faris aspires to attend law school and eventually work as a criminal defense attorney. Through learning about the undocumented migrant population, he gained valuable skills that will continue to shape him in his professional career. “From now on, if I ever do anything I am not comfortable in doing I can look to this internship as a guide,” he explains. Fairs encourages other students to take advantage of the internship opportunities the Honors College offers, perhaps not the specific internship he was a part of but one that interest them. He insists that one will be surprised by the amount of knowledge and experience one ends up gaining.
Faris is a perfect example of the students who, while driven by their intellectual curiosity and the need to understand, also desire to selflessly give back to the local community. The Honors College is very proud of Faris’ accomplishments and wishes him the best in the rest of his undergraduate career.
About Florida Atlantic University: Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU’s world- class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of three signature themes – marine and coastal issues, biotechnology and contemporary societal challenges – which provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU’s existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit www.fau.edu