In addition to representing individual clients, IHRLC students routinely work with organizational clients to advocate for legal change on a variety of fronts throughout the world. By working on complex human rights issues at both the individual client and issue-based project levels, students gain a deep, nuanced understanding of the problems. Working with experienced, committed advocates in the human rights community helps students to expand their professional networks and explore the different ways in which lawyers can seek justice for those who need it most.
Children as Bait: Impacts of the ORR-DHS Information-Sharing Agreement
International Human Rights Law Clinic students Alix Bruce, Cathleen Carlson, Sarah Casado, and Shannon Riggins co-authored a report, Children as Bait: Impacts of the ORR-DHS Information-Sharing Agreement, with the Women’s Refugee Commission and National Immigrant Justice Center. The report addresses changes to the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s reunification or sponsorship vetting process as the result of a May 2018 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security. The MOA mandates continuous information-sharing on unaccompanied children in government custody and their prospective sponsors, resulting in documented immigration enforcement actions against some prospective sponsors. The report will be used by the IHRLC and its partners to inform U.S. Congressional briefings and legislative advocacy.
Legal Persecution: Vietnam's Use of Law as a Weapon Against Civil Society
Vietnam’s record of respect for its peoples’ civil and political rights remains poor and the government continues to take harsh action against individuals or groups perceived to act in opposition to its interests. Although Vietnam holds elections, these elections are neither free nor fair, but serve to cement the power of the Communist Party of Vietnam (“CPV”) over state institutions including the National Assembly, judiciary, law enforcement, and security. To ensure that the CPV’s vision of national unity is not undermined by an individual’s exercise of his or her civil and political rights, the government has enacted a network of laws and promoted a series of practices that close civil society space, curtail religious freedoms, and criminalize dissent. Individuals who speak out against the government are often detained and convicted to lengthy prison terms; it is estimated that by the end of 2017, over 100 prisoners of conscience populated Vietnam’s jail cells.
Students from the International Human Rights Law Clinic have worked with our partner NGO, Freedom Now, to gather data for and co-author a report that shows the extent of the government crackdown and its impact on Vietnamese civil society.
Shortchanged: The Big Business Behind the Low Wage J-1 Au Pair Program
The State Department has long failed to protect overseas guest workers who come to the U.S. through the au pair educational and cultural exchange program. Au pairs report a wide range of abuses, including wage theft, substandard living and working conditions, sexual harassment, and verbal and emotional abuse.
Students in the IHRLC and Civil Advocacy Clinic (CAC), supervised by Prof. Llezlie Green Coleman, began in the spring of 2017 to gather and analyze data through interviews with au pairs in the New York and Boston areas.
Nigeria has passed significant anti-discrimination and anti-violence laws in recent years, but those laws have failed adequately to protect certain vulnerable individuals from discrimination. Gay men, female sex workers, and intravenous drug users – populations most affected by HIV/AIDS – continue to face prejudice, including torture, arbitrary arrest, detention, and other abuses, based on sexual orientation and perceived moral standards. Despite societal antipathy toward individuals at risk for HIV/AIDS, Nigeria has ratified international agreements that could be used to help shift its policies in a more positive direction, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).
This report, co-authored by IHRLC students and advocates from the human rights organization Heartland Alliance International, explains how Nigeria’s discriminatory laws and procedures, including its Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act of 2014, give rise to violence against vulnerable populations and violate international legal agreements including CEDAW and CAT. The report highlights the reluctance of individuals to seek medical help at the risk of discrimination, and it determines that discriminatory practices are a detriment to individuals at risk for HIV/AIDS. The report concludes with recommendations to bring Nigeria into compliance with its human rights commitments to the international community.
In the spring of 2018, IHRLC students, working with advocates from Juvenile Justice Advocates and the Human Rights Center at the University of Minnesota Law School, co-authored "the first report dedicated to understanding how long children spend in pretrial detention around the world. The report explores how practitioners, advocates, civil society, and the international human rights community can adopt better practices and standards to protect children waiting in prison."