This March, several teams of HLS students used their Spring Break to work on a number of humanitarian projects, including documenting property rights issues in the Mississippi Delta, working with asylum seekers in detention centers at the Texas border, helping undocumented immigrants in Chicago with their applications for permission to stay in the U.S., and investigating debtors’ prisons on behalf of indigent defendants and their families in Tennessee. With photos and blog posts, students documented the lessons they learned about the law outside the classroom. Read more below.
Alternative spring break trips for students are developed and sponsored by the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs. This is the 11th year that the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs has funded the trips, which originated in response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when students went to New Orleans to assist displaced families.
There had been a murder in the town of Clarksdale, Mississippi—the third in a month; A high number for a town of just over 17,000 in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. The crowd had gathered in the street to hold a nighttime candlelight vigil to remember and honor the victim. Towards the back of the crowd, the police chief and other plainclothes police officers silently observed the scene. The vigil ended with the release of balloons and with prayer. Maybe locals more steeped in past tragedies, and who may have seen such vigils come and go without result in the past, would have said differently, but to this Harvard outsider at least, there was an energy on that dark street. Continue reading
We were in Chicago to support the work of the Community Activism Law Alliance(CALA). Founded in late 2014 by HLS alumnus Lam Ho’08 with a seed grant from Public Service Venture Fund, CALA endeavors to bring free legal services to some of Chicago’s most disadvantaged communities. CALA practices “community activism lawyering,” which prioritizes meaningful collaboration with and grassroots activism in the communities it serves. Continue reading
After a brief orientation, we headed to the Port IsabelDetention Center and got started interviewing clients right away. Our clients were all young men from Somalia who had survived against incredible odds and made the extremely long journey from Somalia to Texas. As volunteers, we conducted extensive interviews to collect all the information we would need to fill out the clients’ asylum applications in a way that would make it clear to the immigration judge that they had a well-founded fear of persecution if they returned to Somalia. Continue reading