My policy externship here at the ACLU of Maine was an eye-opening experience in more ways than I could have imagined.
Because I consumed a lot of media, I knew that the ACLU of Maine's staff could use some extra helping hand in light of the enormous challenges to our individual rights and civil liberties. I also knew coming here that the ACLU is the guardian of our civil liberties. But it did not fully comprehend and appreciate the enormous amount of work that goes into the fight to preserve our civil liberties until I began my externship here.
Every time civil liberties issues came up at the state and federal level, I participated in staff meetings to analyze those issues, plan action, and share insights. Throughout my spring externship here, I did legal research so that the staff here could respond – whether it was about Internet privacy, Voter ID, anti-immigrant bills, random drug testing bills, etc.
As a third-year law student at Maine Law, I chose to do my externship with ACLU of Maine because I knew that ACLU was at the forefront of the fight to protect and preserve our individual rights and civil liberties, which I deeply cared about as well. Yet my externship here made me realize what that fight means in practice.
Through my legal research, attending ACLU staff meetings, attending legislature work sessions, writing blogs on current civil liberties issues, drafting testimony before the legislature, attending racial equity meetings, etc. I came to realize that what ACLU is doing is more than ideology. It's about making sure that individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and the laws of the United States are extended to everyone regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation and economic status. This, I believe, is the America that we should strive to build and ask of each other.
During my externship, I worked on several bills – and was so glad to see the people of Maine reject some really bad ideas. I saw the defeat of a bill that sought to punish local municipalities that do not prioritize federal immigration law enforcement over their local law enforcement priorities. I saw the defeat of bills that sought to perpetuate the war on drugs at the expense of individual rights guaranteed by the Constitution. I saw Maine legislators reject bills that were simply purported solutions in search of a problem, at the expense of taxpayers – such as the FGM bill that would further stereotypes while fixing a problem that is nonexistent in Maine. The list goes on.
I also saw Maine get so close to passing a bill that would protect Mainers’ Internet privacy against profit-seeking whims of powerful telecommunications giants and Internet Service Providers.
To me, this externship at ACLU of Maine was more than a practical experience to fulfill my graduation requirements. It was a life-changing experience. It equipped me with the tools that I needed to continue to participate in the political process and the fight to preserve civil liberties that have made America a beacon of values such as justice and equal treatment for all.
Going forward, I plan on closely following everything that is going to be happening at the State House in Augusta! I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to play a small role in the important work that the ACLU of Maine is doing.