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Transnational Legal Clinic

Transnational Legal Clinic

Since the clinic’s founding in 2006, students have represented individuals seeking asylum and other forms of immigration relief from across the globe and have worked alongside and on behalf of international human rights and community-based organizations before regional and international human rights mechanisms on a range of rights-based issues, particularly as they relate to migrants and internally-displaced persons.

Students on an immersion trip to Arizona.

Prof. Paoletti explains that DACA case’s central issue is the extent of executive authority

On June 18, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (known as DACA), temporarily protecting some 700,000 people who arrived in the country as young undocumented, immigrants.

Shortly after the decision came out, Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, said on Twitter: “The Supreme Court held today that President Obama’s DACA program is clearly illegal.”

That Statement is false.

Read more on the DACA ruling

Transnational Legal Clinic students ‘learn fast and work hard in a broken system’

Passing through the gate of the double-barbed-wire fence surrounding the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, Meroua Zouai L’20 thought about the Trump Administration’s anti-immigration policies and the people who bore the brunt of their cruelty — her clients. As a student in the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s Transnational Legal Clinic, she had been granted a glimpse inside the U.S.’s punitive immigration system, and she was deeply frustrated with what she saw.

Between a legal apparatus that seemed “designed to retraumatize” her clients, the “unconscionable” conditions in which they were “caged” while awaiting trial, and the sheer intensity of the “fear and despair on their faces,” Zouai sometimes felt paralyzed by the scale of the injustice facing people seeking asylum in the U.S.

Read more on TLC students’ work

Students’ Human Rights Advocacy Highlights

Legal Advocacy Before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Students have worked in collaboration with several local and national human rights organizations in requesting hearings before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, where they have presented testimony and extensive written documentation, using international human rights law to frame our partner organizations’ priority issues of concern regarding U.S. policies and practices for detaining immigrants.

Advocacy for the UN Human Rights Council

In close coordination and consultation with a national human rights non-profit law office and grassroots organizations in Haiti, Clinic students worked to translate a series of persistent rights violations and issues of concern into the international human rights framework for Haiti’s Universal Periodic Review before the UN Human Rights Council. Students also conducted workshops and trainings to the partner organizations and their members on how to effectively use international human rights law and mechanisms in their own domestic advocacy.

Immigration Highlights

Ghana trip

Students in the Clinic have successfully represented clients from countries as diverse as China, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Lithuania, Mali, Guinea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico. Working in teams of two and under faculty supervision, students are responsible for all aspects of client representation, including interviewing, legal and factual research and analysis, case theory and narrative theory development, affidavit drafting, brief writing, negotiation, and preparation of fact and expert witnesses. Students then serve as lead counsel during the trial, delivering opening and closing arguments, and conducting all direct and cross-examinations of their client and other witnesses.

Transnational Clinic Course Details for Students


Clinic Faculty

Liz Bradley

Liz Bradley

Visiting Practice Assistant Professor of Law  
Sarah Paoletti

Sarah Paoletti

Practice Professor of Law; Director, Transnational Legal Clinic  

Contact Us

The Transnational Legal Clinic receives clients from partner organizations; we do not have an open intake process.

People seeking legal representation for immigration matters should contact other local immigration legal services providers or the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Please also note, the Transnational Legal Clinic does not represent individuals in U.S. state or federal courts.

Transnational Legal Clinic

Tel: 215.898.8427

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School
Gittis Center for Clinical Legal Studies
3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Fax: 215.573.6783