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Making an Impact World-Wide

Students engage in the direct representation of clients and organizations in international human rights and immigration proceedings in our Transnational Legal Clinic, Penn Law’s international human rights and immigration clinic.

Since its 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.

Ghana trip spring 2010 - Transnational Legal Clinic

Members of the Transnational Legal Clinic assisted in gathering information from Liberian
refugees in Ghana for The Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Students and
Prof. Sarah Paoletti, who heads the Law School’s Transnational Clinic, traveled to Ghana
to interview refugees and take statements about their experiences in war-torn Liberia, and
as refugees in Ghana.



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.

The areas of immigration practice in which the students engage include the following:

  • Asylum and Withholding of Removal

Students have successfully represented individuals in cutting-edge legal claims, such as fear of persecution based on gender-identity and sexual orientation, female genital cutting and domestic violence, as well as claims based on family identity, political opinion, and religion.

  • U and T Visa Representation

Students have successfully assisted in the representation of over 20 men subjected to forced labor through fraud and coercion in obtaining T visas available to victims of labor trafficking, and continue to represent individuals seeking relief in the form of a U visa, available to victims of particularly serious crimes where return to that client’s country of origin would cause significant hardship.

  • Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

In collaboration with the Child Advocacy Clinic, students have represented unaccompanied minors who have escaped situations of abuse, abandonment and neglect in their homes and have arrived in the United States as arrived in the United States to seek safety, often in the care of a distant relative or close family friend.

  • International Human Rights Advocacy

Students working in teams and in close collaboration with partner and client organizations in developing and implementing strategies for utilizing the international and regional human rights mechanisms to address a range of human rights issues both in the United States and beyond our borders.

Examples of Students’ Human Rights Advocacy Work

  • 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.