20th Annual Howard B. Eisenberg Do-Gooders’ Auction–An Interview with PILS Fellow Kelli Nagel

The 20th Annual Howard B. Eisenberg Do-Gooders’ Auction on behalf of the Law School’s Public Interest Law Society (PILS) will be held on February 15, 2013 at the Law School. Proceeds from the event go to support PILS Fellowships to enable Marquette law students to do public interest work in the summer. Kelli Nagel, a current law student, shares her experience here as a PILS Fellow.

Where did you work as a PILS Fellow?

This past summer, I worked in the Consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.

What kind of work did you do there?

In my role there, I had many diverse experiences. In the non-immigrant visa section, I helped process the over 2,000 individuals who visit the Embassy daily for visa interviews. I spent some time in the American Citizen Services section visiting U.S. citizens incarcerated in Mexico. And for the majority of my internship, I worked in the Fraud Prevention Unit conducting an investigation on the human trafficking of women and children between Tlaxcala, Mexico and various cities throughout the U.S. and Mexico.

How was the experience meaningful to you?

This experience was the fulfillment of a dream I had from when I studied abroad in Mexico as an undergraduate student in 2008. At that time, the U.S. Embassy came to visit American students at our university. One of the Foreign Service Officers told our group of students that the State Department was a great place to work, and I thought “I want to try that.”

What did you learn in the course of your work? 

This internship challenged me both educationally and personally. Educationally, the trafficking investigation tested my research skills in a very new way. When I received the assignment, my boss simply gave me a link to a newspaper article and said “I want to know more about this.” Three days later, I was on the phone with a journalist from the New York Daily News.  A few weeks later I was meeting with a representative from the International Organization for Migration, and my last week in Mexico City I organized an Embassy visit to Tlaxcala, Mexico to meet with NGOs working directly with victims. My investigation culminated in a thirteen-page draft cable detailing the transnational crisis and offering policy recommendations.

Personally, I was very lucky to live with a supportive diplomatic family. I am originally from a very small town and moving to one of the largest cities in the Western Hemisphere was a culture shock. In addition, we were in a tight security situation. There was a deadly shooting at the Mexico City airport only three days before my boyfriend was scheduled to come visit me, and three weeks after I returned to the U.S., two Embassy employees were wounded when Mexican Federal Police fired upon a U.S. Embassy car.

What do you like best about doing public interest law work?

My favorite part about public interest law is the diversity of career options. Many people are not aware of the large number of attorneys who are employed by the state department. I was able to use the skills I developed in law school on behalf of my country. One day while I was sitting in the Non-Immigrant Visa Section, I reflected back upon Prof. Fallone’s immigration law class, and I thought “Wow this is the Immigration and Nationality Act in action.”

What are you doing to help with the PILS Auction?

This year, I am co-education chair of the Public Interest Law Society. Because of the amazing experience my PILS fellowship afforded me, my family and I wanted to do something special for the auction this year. My dad makes wine and has won some regional awards in Missouri. For the auction, we made two fruit wines:  a Peach Apricot Chardonnay and a Blueberry Pinot Noir. The wine will be featured in the Wine Toss and the silent auction, and the labels commemorate the date and the event.


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