Fighting Corruption and Securing Human Rights For All

Nicole Ledesma Looks to Tackle Corruption and Champion Human Rights Issues

Nicole Ledesma (Photo by Keith Pierce)

Nicole Ledesma (3L) is a highly dedicated human rights defender and passionate advocate against corruption. Born in Ecuador and raised in South Florida, Ledesma’s profound connection to her Ecuadorian roots was strengthened during her visits to her family, where she witnessed the stark disparities between the political elite and the average citizens in these communities, both internally and externally. 

These eye-opening experiences have profoundly influenced Ledesma’s unwavering commitment to her impactful work. Inspired by the courageous human rights defenders in grassroots communities around the world, who fearlessly vocalize the pain and power of marginalized individuals, Ledesma worked in the Department of Justice Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Unit. There she conducted investigations into cases of global corruption. Ledesma’s experience in the Department of Justice empowered her to shift her focus from solely enforcing the law to also preventing corruption and safeguarding human rights. She further expanded her expertise by collaborating with USAID on anti-corruption initiatives and human rights-related aid programs. 

After graduation, Ledesma plans to work with a former DOJ prosecutor to battle corruption and fight for human rights. Nicole says one of her goals is to bring those issues into the limelight.  

“People in the United States should pay attention especially as a lot of this damage is being done by U.S. companies, U.S. individuals, or with U.S. consumer or investor funding,” she said.

The United States government and corporations have a history of “bribing foreign officials and circumventing local laws for their benefit.”  

She believes we must take an active role in fixing the issues they have caused in the past and. Nicole says that Americans should be concerned about the impact human rights violations and corrupt officials have on the international scene.  

“Even if there is no direct link between U.S. actors and corruption or human rights abuses abroad, what happens elsewhere will affect us here,” she said.  

Ledesma believes the U.S. has a role to play in stopping human rights violations toward migrants and fighting corruption abroad.  

“Countries with human rights issues can become fragile states leading to instability, crime, and outflows of migration,” she said. “Look at Nicaragua and Venezuela. Daniel Ortega and the Maduro regimes who have blatantly disregarded human rights and rule of law matters have led to mass outflows of people seeking better opportunities elsewhere.” 

As an immigrant herself, Ledesma has placed particular emphasis on defending the rights of immigrants and refugees, dedicating her studies to this compelling cause. Previously, she worked at the Inter-American Dialogue in their Migration, Remittances, and Development Program, where she actively worked to protect the rights of vulnerable migrants.  

One of the key issues immigration issues over the last few years has been the use of Title 42 to limit the number of asylum seekers entering the U.S. to protect against the spread of COVID-19.  

Ledesma asks, “Were we really worried about COVID-19 safety or was the true intention of Title 42 to stop the flow of people attempting to seek asylum in our country?”  

Title 42 ended on May 11, after many other pandemic-related protections. Ledesma notes that the government is implementing new policies that “will once again make it extremely difficult for asylum seekers to seek safety in our country” by denying asylum to people who travel through another country to enter the U.S. 

“Refugees have the right to seek asylum in the United States and creative ways to frame the ways in which these rights are being stripped do not change the reality of the situation,” she said. “Policies like Title 42 have a negative impact on human rights, asylum seekers, and the rule of law.” 

Ledesma looks forward to fighting for human rights for everyone and battling corruption wherever she finds it.  

“There is more attention to these issues than there was before, and technology helps bring attention to specific issues,” she said. 

Ledesma holds a B.A. in International Relations and Economics from American University, showcasing her strong educational background and interdisciplinary approach to addressing global challenges. Following her graduation, she plans to embark on a career in strategic litigation, where she will continue her relentless pursuit of justice as she collaborates with a former DOJ prosecutor. In this role, Ledesma will further advance her passion for combatting corruption and defending human rights. 

With her exceptional dedication, diverse experiences, and academic achievements, Nicole Ledesma is a formidable force in the realm of human rights defense and anti-corruption advocacy. 

Story by Brice Helms.