Neepa Mehta '11: Working for the Nation's Largest Law Firm

July 14, 2009

The Department of Justice has been called the nation's largest law firm, and the work that it does warrants the title of nation's most important law firm as well. It has been a great honor to work for and represent the United States government in the research and prosecution of crimes that impact the integrity and security of our nation's citizens and borders.

Neepa Mehta '11

I am very interested in immigration and public international law, and my internship in the Domestic Security Section has provided me with endless opportunities to explore both fields. I have also gained significant exposure to federal criminal procedure and litigation strategy, and I hope one day to work as a litigator in the immigration and human rights fields.

As part of the Criminal Division, the Domestic Security Section focuses on prosecution and policy work in three areas of federal criminal law: complex immigration crimes, international human rights violations and certain federal crimes of violence committed outside the United States.

As part of my policy work, I have explored the legal basis for federal extraterritorial jurisdiction over certain international crimes of violence that are committed by and against U.S. citizens. In particular, I have researched the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, which extends federal criminal jurisdiction to individuals employed by or accompanying the United States military overseas who commit murder, sexual crimes and other serious federal felony offenses. The statute has been the center of controversy because the government has used it to provide federal criminal jurisdiction over private security contractors such as Blackwater, which was employed by the State Department during the Nisour Square incident in Iraq.

I have also assisted a senior trial attorney with preparation for the trial of an international alien smuggling ring that was helping individuals abroad procure fraudulent travel and identification documents in order to enter the United States illegally. My work has included preparing a search warrant for the electronic equipment of the defendants, as well as evaluating evidence related to the indictment. Alien smuggling prosecution is fascinating because successful prosecution of these criminal travel networks helps safeguard our national security. Successful prosecution of the perpetrators of such alien smuggling schemes also helps illegal aliens, who often find themselves working in exploitative conditions in order to pay off their debts. In these cases, the line between alien smuggling and human trafficking blurs, and it makes the Domestic Security Section's work even more essential.

Finally, the Domestic Security Section seeks to investigate and prosecute major human rights violators who have engaged in torture, war crimes and genocide. I have been helping the office develop this area because the Department of Justice has recently made such human rights prosecutions a significant priority. My work has included researching and analyzing many of the cases coming out of the International Criminal Tribunals.

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