Junior sociology student Ian Foley had an enriching and challenging internship this summer. As part of his requirements for his Bachelor of Science degree with a concentration in Criminology, Deviance, and Law, Ian worked with sociology faculty members Dr. Felicia Arriaga and Amber Gregory to secure an internship with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina. As stated on their website, this organization's mission has been to serve as "guardian of liberty – working in courts, the General Assembly, and communities to protect and advance civil rights and civil liberties for all North Carolinians. A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with more than 30,000 members and supporters across the state, the ACLU of North Carolina is a state affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union." They have also focused specifically on civil rights issues surrounding LBGTQ discrimination, domestic violence protections, and immigration.
For Ian, the ACLU of North Carolina offered some great opportunities. First, Ian was able to further explore the topic of immigration within the local context of North Carolina. Second, he was able to hone his research and communications skills. Finally, and most important to sociology students, Ian was able to see how social science and research can be used to advocate for various groups in need. Here is what Ian had to say about his internship:
It was a privilege to intern with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to fulfill its mission of defending and preserving the civil liberties of unreasonably discriminated populations. During my internship, I was able to do research by examining administrative sources and county financial records to identify amounts of federal funding for North Carolina counties that have implemented 287(g) programs. 287(g) allows local law enforcement officials to act as extensions of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain, question, and withhold individuals believed to be of undocumented immigrants. My research revealed financial incentives garnered by local law enforcement to implement such programs. For example, Henderson County received funding incentives from Federal Agencies (Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement) for county institutional improvements that led to the 2010 construction of a new detention center. While the detention center was actually created to hold any county prisoner, ICE felt that it should be able to use the center for detaining undocumented immigrants. Interestingly, federal agencies like ICE do not possess facilities of their own to detain and withhold undocumented individuals. Rather, they partner, fund, and utilize local facilities with opportunities for reimbursements for county officials and facilities that can lead to significant financial growth for county budgets. This economic incentive provided to counties can be a way for ICE to further persuade local law enforcement to arrest and detain undocumented immigrants even after the 287(g) program partnership and money runs out. I plan to continue this research throughout the next semester to further investigate how financial and ideological incentives of local law enforcement agencies factor into the implementation of 287(g) programs. I also plan to use my connections and relationship with the ACLU to assist in my research and future career planning. This was certainly an eye-opening experience to the links between social justice, advocacy, and community engagement dealing with the topic of undocumented immigration.
Overall, Ian's internship was a phenomenal opportunity for him to see how a sociology degree can provide him with the insight and tools to work within local politics, social issues, and public policy. If this story interests you into considering sociology, please feel free to reach out to our Undergraduate Program Director, Dr. Amy Dellinger Page for more information on how you too can be a well-trained and experienced sociology major!