Briefing Room
Michelle Esparza


2L gains greater understanding of Department of Homeland Security through Washington, D.C., Summer Program

November 7, 2017 | Students

By: Kelsey Givens

Understanding the intricacies of the laws and regulations that govern the nation’s borders has always been of interest to 2L Michelle Esparza. Growing up in El Paso, Texas, a city that sits on the border of the United States and Mexico, she was constantly aware of the different government and law enforcement agencies present in and around the city.

“I have always been interested in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) because they have a huge presence on the border between Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),” Esparza said. “I drove by the border every day on my way to my undergraduate university and interacted with CBP at the ports of entry when I’d go back and forth from visiting friends and family in Mexico. When I came to law school I really wanted to see the inner workings behind something that was so big and present in my hometown.”

Those early experiences are in part what inspired her to seek out a career in law. While deciding what path she wanted take after earning her bachelor’s degree, Esparza said she learned about the underrepresentation of Latinos in law school.

“If there aren’t many Latinos in law school then we don’t have a voice,” she said. “So I thought, because I am a part of this community and I know immigrants and the border then I should go to law school and go be that voice.”

This summer Esparza had the opportunity to learn more about how the DHS operates on a national level through the Moritz College of Law’s Washington, D.C., Summer Program. Through the program students like Esparza are able to work in substantive externships in the nation’s capital, while benefitting from a high-quality academic program.

Esparza interned in the DHS Regulatory Affairs Law Division. There she had a number of duties, including reviewing legislation to identify areas where Congress had directed DHS to create regulation as well as assisting attorneys in the office with various research needs.

One of the more interesting assignments Esparza was able to work on, she said, involved President Donald Trump’s “two-for-one” executive order that for every new regulation created, two existing regulations have to be repealed.

“DHS had to switch from just regulating to now regulating and deregulating,” she explained. “I was able to see the implementation of the executive order and all of the components under DHS, including ICE, CBP, Secret Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Coast Guard, implement those changes within their agencies and how they identified regulations for repeal.”

Something she will take away from the experience, Esparza said, is a newfound appreciation for the thought, time, and energy that goes into crafting new policy and regulation.

“I was afraid that during a period of a presidential transition that policy and law could be affected very quickly,” she said. “Working in an agency I realized how slow the process is to actually create regulation and implement federal programs. I see now the amount of research, planning, and real people that are behind it and how long the process takes. Nothing can just be changed from one president to the next, things go through many reviews and processes before becoming law.”