This is a guest post by Amanda Escotto. Escotto is a 2023 Kluge Center summer intern where she works with Kluge Chair in American Law and Governance Michael Jones-Correa in his research on social interaction and civic engagement of undocumented immigrants. She is a Master of Public Administration Candidate at the State University of New York at Binghamton. Escotto is the managing editor of “Happy Medium Magazine”, Binghamton’s non-partisan political science magazine.
The First Day
On the first day that I walked into the Library of Congress for my orientation as an intern for the John W. Kluge Center, I was not sure of what to expect for the next ten weeks of my summer. My fellow interns and I found ourselves surrounded by scholars from all over the world who had gathered at a welcome reception to share the passions and work that led them to be scholars-in-residence at the Kluge Center. It was a unique experience to have access to rich discussions with brilliant minds, where small talk was displaced by rich and engaging conversations. I cherished these throughout my time at the Kluge Center.
Before I arrived in Washington, DC, I was paired with the scholar I would assist in his research. Michael Jones-Correa is the 2023 Kluge Chair in American Law and Governance. His work centers on immigration politics, ethnic and racial relations, and political behavior. Upon meeting with Jones-Correa for the first time, I learned that I would be assisting him with projects focusing on the impact of state and federal immigration policies on the civic engagement of Latinos.
I was grateful that Michael Stratmoen, the Kluge Center’s Program Specialist, put great care into pairing interns with scholars according to their mutual research interests. As the daughter of two Latin American immigrant parents, I felt this research was closely connected to my own life experiences and identity. The Kluge Center’s internship program gave me an opportunity to assist with research that suits my interests perfectly, all while preparing me for a potential career in the public sector.
Immigration and Democracy
On a day-to-day basis, my work involved reading quantitative and qualitative research about the implications of anti-Latino immigration policy for Latino communities. The constant fear of deportation, separation from loved ones, and inadequate job security make the lives of immigrant populations challenging and stressful. This is even the case for immigrants who have obtained work authorization and/or citizenship, as the fear of being unfairly profiled follows them throughout their lives. The research I’ve read dissects how anti-Latino immigration laws perpetuate a culture where Latinos often conceal themselves from the world outside of their trusted communities. This withdrawal from civic life often triggers fear of authority among Latinos. This cautious approach to civic life results in Latino immigrants refraining from reporting crimes, seeking medical attention, or being present for their children at school and community events.
Anti-Latino immigration policies have severe consequences for democracy due to the high levels of social isolation they engender in immigrant communities. To create conversations about policy reform, it is necessary to continue investigating how anti-Latino immigration policy detrimentally affects civic engagement among Latinos. These conversations bring forth questions about what it means to have membership in a society beyond the technical definitions of being a citizen.
After receiving training from Library staff on how to conduct research using the Library’s online catalogs, I combed through countless academic journals and developed annotated bibliographies for work that would relate well and add to the main ideas of the project at hand. It was such a pleasure to contribute to Jones-Correa’s process, which not only meant so much to me personally but also evoked important questions about our democracy.
Scholars, Congress, and the Public
The other side of my internship involved the unique experience of working at events put on by the Kluge Center for Members of Congress, Congressional staff, and the public. Working events was one of the most fulfilling parts of my role as a Kluge intern, as it allowed me to be involved in the interpersonal and intellectual connections the Kluge Center seeks to foster.
Throughout the year, the Kluge Center hosts events where scholars lead panel discussions, seminars, or lectures about their research and take audience questions on the topic. I helped facilitate a handful of events this summer, including a dinner featuring conversations on US-Russia relations, a conversation with historian and Cary and Ann Maguire Chair in Ethics and American History Tamika Nunley about her new book The Demands of Justice, a panel hosted by historian and Kluge Prize recipient George Chauncey about the implications of the AIDS crisis on LBGTQ+ history and more. These events afforded me the opportunity to witness firsthand how the Kluge Center fulfills its mission to promote civic engagement by creating opportunities for those outside of academia to engage with the world’s leading intellectuals.
One aspect of the job that I did not foresee is the way that I would connect and collaborate with those around me at the Kluge Center. I have made some great relationships with my fellow interns and mentors here at the Library, all of which are so driven and committed to the mission of scholarship and the projection of that scholarship into the world. It has been such a joy to meet like-minded people and get to know them through the course of the summer months. It is hard to believe that my time at the Kluge Center is coming to an end, but I will carry these experiences with me always. I thank all those I met this summer that made the experience so special.