Keep up with the committee: follow along with our "How I Spent My Summer" series to see how the Law Student Division Executive Committee members spent their summer!
This summer I experienced legal work outside of an office. I was an intern for Indiana Legal Service’s the Migrant Farmworkers Law Center (MFLC), where I traveled for 8 to 9 hours a day, 3-4 times a week outreaching to migrant farmworkers all over the northern part of Indiana. As a granddaughter of a farmer from El Salvador, I have always had high respect for farmworkers. Yet, I never thought I would be mixing my grandfather’s trade with law in my career.
MFLC’s goal is to provide legal services for migrant workers, both those living in the U.S. and those migrating into the U.S. Because it is federally funded, we are not able to help those that are undocumented, which was very difficult to accept for me as those workers are usually the most vulnerable. My role as a law clerk was to observe and problem-spot the living and work conditions of migrant workers, and provide them with information of their rights and how to assert them. I would not only provide them with outreach material, but would gather their information, listen and research their issue and follow-up with my managing attorney on how to solve the worker’s legal problem. I learned about immigration, property, employment, environmental and contract law.
I met migrant workers who were mostly documented, meaning they were U.S. Citizens, Legal Permanent Residents, or on the H-2A visa program. I was honestly surprised the majority of these workers were not undocumented, unlike the popular opinion. Additionally, the diversity of people working in the fields was impressive to me. I met South Africans, Haitians, North Americans from Mexico, and Central American workers. I learned that the congressional program designed to protect these workers is not working properly to protect their health. Some scholars have labeled the H-2A program as “legalized slavery” in the past, and therefore it is crucial to protect these individuals. Corporate business, mainly the giants such as Monsato, do not protect their employees from pesticides and dangerous machinery. I also learned that women are the most vulnerable in this field, mostly because of work place sexual violence and harassment.
As I was taking Sex Discrimination Law with Professor Brookins this summer, our class grade consisted of researching and writing an analysis and solution on a topic of gender discrimination. Therefore, I got to have a firsthand experience on researching my topic, which was titled: Speaking Up Against Sex Discrimination in the Male Dominated Field of Crops. In this note, I discussed (I) the nature of sex discrimination, and a brief history of farmworkers in the United States; (II) I examined the current status of law, and the proposed solutions by some scholar; (III) but most importantly I proposed solutions to enforcing the anti-gender discrimination in the agricultural sector, and the costs and benefits of the proposed solutions.
Through this brief summary, I hope other students will consider working for MFLC next summer. It is so refreshing to work outside of the office space environment, experience and solve real life legal issues, and serve those who truly need a voice.
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