Alternative Spring Break 2005

Building on the enormous success of Action for Human Rights' Experiential Learning Project in fall 2003, students began organizing WCL's first Alternative Spring Break in the hopes of providing interesting and engaging hands-on learning and community service opportunities for WCL students. The trip, to be taken during WCL's spring break, offers WCL students the opportunity to better understand particular legal issues by engaging with many of the actors that are involved in the issue, including the victims and their families, law enforcement, attorneys, advocates and civil society representatives. The students participate in community service activities both during the trip itself and upon return to WCL.

Alternative Spring Break continues in Washington College of Law's longstanding mission that law should be based on values of human dignity and respect; law represents an interaction between people and their environments; and law schools have a critical role to play in teaching students to shape their world.

March 2005 Trip to Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua, Mexico
Issue: Femicides

Led by WCL student Kellen Corrigan and Macrina C�rdenas, advocacy and legislative director at the Mexican Solidarity Network, this Alternative Spring Break trip was sponsored by the Community Service Fund at WCL to travel to Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua, Mexico, at the request of the families affected by the femicides to increase international pressure on this issue. Eleven WCL students participated in this trip: Jackie Bliss, Dan Brown, Meg Hobbins, Ryan Joy, Katie Kolon, Joyce Kosak, Nicole Lentini, Ana Olman, Grace Pazdan, Swati Rawani and Claudia Yerena.

The femicides in Ciudad Juarez began 13 years ago in 1992 and since that time, over 400 young women have been killed. While there are many theories about the specific perpetrators of these killings, the impunity for such violence allows for anyone to kill young women without fear of being caught. International organizations have increased pressure on the Mexican Government to respond to these killings, but in many cases, the governmental response has created more victims.

Highlights from the week spent in Ciudad Juarez and Ciudad Chihuahua:

  • Visiting with grass-roots groups that provide services for the poor such as advocating for public services to be installed in poor neighborhoods and unionizing maquila workers

  • Attending the World March for Women that began on March 8, International Women's Day

  • Staying with maquila workers' families

  • Meeting with David Mesa in Chihuahua's Cereso prison

  • Meeting with Carmen Argueta, David's mother, and Patricia Cervantes, Neyra's mother to discuss how they have sought justice for their children

  • Learning about the effects the US/Mexico border relationship with regard to NAFTA, migration, agriculture, and industrialization

  • Meeting with various governmental organizations charged with addressing the problem of impunity


In the 2004 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Mexico, the United States Department of State noted: "The Constitution excludes as evidence confessions obtained in the absence of the accused person's defense attorney, and the law excludes coerced confessions, including those extracted under torture. . . . However, the police regularly obtained information through torture, prosecutors used this evidence in courts, and the courts continued to admit as evidence confessions extracted under torture." This is precisely what happened in the case of David Meza who is accused of killing his cousin, Neyra Cervantes, one of the femicide victims in Chihuahua. He, along with his family, was demanding that the police investigate her murder when they told him that if he wanted someone to blame, they would find someone. One week later the police detained David and tortured him until he confessed to Neyra's murder, for which he is now awaiting sentencing. This case is just one of many examples of how the system that is supposed to bring justice further victimizes its people. Take action on David's case! Sign and send this letter on his behalf to the President of the Supreme Court of Chihuahua who has jurisdiction over David's case. Any day now, the judge will issue his sentence. With the added international pressure, we hope to secure David's freedom.