By Audra Herrera, J.D. ’17
My taxi driver sighed when I asked him to take me downtown through the heavy traffic. He helped me and my suitcases into the car and pulled out of the airport. My usual impulse to initiate small talk was overcome by the left-leaning newscaster’s commentary on the radio. The driver turned the volume up, and we both silently listened as the newscaster talked about the distances participants traveled to participate in the protest and reported that nearly half a million people marched throughout the day. As we approached the northwest quadrant of D.C., home of the White House and now me, I saw dozens of pedestrians in pink walking alongside the rows of restaurants and tourist shops. “Fight like a girl.” “Is this fake news?” “I’m with her.” I rolled down the window to get a better view of the homemade protest signs the women and men carried under their arms. The drive was long, but passing through the crowds, I knew that I was witnessing a significant moment in history.
I moved to D.C. on the day of the Women’s March to participate in Harvard’s Semester in Washington Clinic. My first Monday as a legal intern at the Department of Justice was Donald Trump’s first Monday as President at the White House. The uncertainty of the policies of the new administration meant that everyone had their eyes on Washington. Suddenly, I was not only a Law & Policy intern at the National Security Division of the Department of Justice, but I was also a policy adviser for friends and family members back home. After meeting with an attorney adviser to get started on my first assignment, I returned to my desk only to find my inbox full of messages containing questions and comments about President Trump’s tweets and initial round of executive orders.
Now, nearly two months into the Semester in Washington program, the stream of incoming messages about politics has eased up. However, my engagement in some of the major legal and political issues facing the nation has deepened. Through my internship, I have learned about the role the National Security Division plays within the law enforcement and intelligence communities as well as the federal government as a whole. Importantly, I have had the opportunity to work on some of the most relevant and interesting topics in cyber law and counterterrorism. Through evening classes taught by lecturer on law and DOJ Criminal Division attorney Jonathan Wroblewski, I have gained a framework in which to think about mandatory minimum sentences, the health risks of youth in tackle football, and the ethical obligations of the government lawyer among other policy topics. At these classes, I discuss and debate with 10 other students in the program—each at different placements within the three federal branches—current events in the news and policymaking. I am confident that my remaining time in D.C. will be just as rich.