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The Human Rights Advocacy Program (HRAP) works actively and collaboratively with nonprofit entities and stakeholders in the community to advance the human rights of immigrants, refugees and other noncitizens. Human rights are defined broadly and inclusively, although historic advocacy has focused on health care, access to education, language access, and access to legal and vocational services. HRAP provides sustained opportunities for law students to develop subject matter expertise, leadership skills and community engagement experience in these areas by partnering with community organizations to agitate for policies that embrace and actualize human rights.

Program History

Launched in 2014 and originally funded by a grant from the Louisville Bar Foundation, HRAP’s core focus has been on immigration law to align with student interest. “I have been teaching this subject for many years and have seen an increase in interest from students because of the greater public awareness of immigration policy issues,” says Professor Enid Trucios-Haynes, co-founder of HRAP. “But it’s also an area of the law that includes the unique intersection of constitutional law, criminal law, international law and a statutory code that is complex. I hope to build something that is lasting and will provide assistance to our local community, both service providers and the immigrant, refugee and noncitizen community.” A decade on, Professor Trucios-Haynes continues to supervise HRAP alongside Professors Sam Marcosson and Dan Canon.

The broad intent of the program is to identify human rights abuses impacting our community and identify ways the legal community can better meet these needs. HRAP began its project work by liaising with local and regional human rights organizations to identify issues in the community and understand the work of those providing legal service to the international community. As it became clear that the needs of vulnerable noncitizen populations extended beyond legal services alone, the list of interrelated organizations and providers included in the discussion grew to include medical, educational, and social service providers. Subsequent projects have promoted public education and outreach regarding human rights issues, especially to historically underserved communities such as the international community and communities of color.

In addition to working directly on human rights legal matters, HRAP has published various materials for the community, such as a resource guide of organizations that serve the noncitizen community and comprehensive assessments identifying unmet needs, challenges, and opportunities to serve the community better. HRAP has also planned and hosted relevant, timely programs for the community, including those focusing on women and children at our nation’s borders or on the Syrian refugee crisis. In collaboration with the National Immigrant Justice Center, Professor Trucios-Haynes leads monthly trips to the Boone County Jail Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Detention Center in northern Kentucky, where volunteers meet with detainees to conduct “know your rights” presentations and individual intake interviews, offering a chance for students to see the immigration system firsthand. 

Human Rights Fellowship

Each year, the Human Rights Fellowship identifies and distinguishes student leaders ready and willing to contribute to HRAP’s important work. Fellows have the opportunity to collaborate closely with faculty members, community leaders and fellow students who share their passion and commitment to action. Fellows receive an academic stipend in exchange for their work on projects identifying human rights needs in our community and activating the legal community toward real sustained solutions. HRAP seeks students with a sincere interest in human rights advocacy, who excel in interpersonal communication across cultures, who can powerfully lead others to understand complex issues and who can organize and network effectively to build relationships and trust. Previous experience in human rights advocacy is not required but is regarded favorably.