Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

Kim Quarantello, a member of HIRC’s Immigration Response Initiative, speaking at a Cambridge City Council meeting.

Kim Quarantello, a member of HIRC’s Immigration Response Initiative, speaking at a Cambridge City Council meeting.

As a former Capitol Hill staffer, I was accustomed to drafting talking points. For nearly three years, I wrote “TPs” on foreign policy, defense, and veterans’ issues, including my boss’ favorite vocabulary words so that his voice would come through in press conferences and Senate hearings.

But I’d never written talking points to deliver myself until last month, when I stood up at a Cambridge City Council meeting and urged Massachusetts to end its partnership with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Since I became a graduate student at the Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies, I’ve been particularly involved in immigration issues. I started tutoring at the Harvard Bridge Program, which provides English language support to Harvard employees, most of whom are immigrants. I analyzed proposals to enhance resettlement processing and interagency cooperation for HIRC’s Syrian Resettlement Project. I also coordinated events that connected recently resettled Syrian refugees in Lowell with American students studying Arabic at Harvard.

But I never expected to put my legislative advocacy skills to work in academia until the presidential election, when immigration issues changed overnight. Along with more than 300 students at Harvard Law School, I joined the Immigration Response Initiative, volunteering to help HIRC and advocacy groups. Another former Capitol Hill staffer, Annika Lichtenbaum, and I decided to form the legislative advocacy team.

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