Why Immigration?

The initial focus of this Program has been on immigration needs because it is an area in which students have an interest, according to Professor Enid Trucios-Haynes.

“I have been teaching this subject for the past 20 or so years and I have seen an increase in interest from students because of the greater public awareness of immigration policy issues. 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,” she said.

In Kentucky specifically, the foreign-born population has grown from 0.9 percent in 1990 to 3.3 percent in 2013. Undocumented immigrants make up 2.6 percent of the state’s workforce. And, according to the report, 3.6 percent of this population speaks a language other than English. Public school children speak 116 languages at home.

“We have many undocumented children in Kentucky. And I think our biggest hurdle is educating people that they’re here, not just in Texas or California,” Professor Jamie Abrams said. “Many people have no idea about the depth of our international community here, specifically in Louisville.”

Other law schools in major coastal cities have built these types of initiatives using fellowship-type programs. Abrams was familiar with one issued through her alma mater, American University. With the professors’ combined interest in immigration law, the idea to get a similar program going here was an exciting culmination to a transitional grant provided by the Louisville Bar Foundation.

Abrams and Trucios-Haynes are both aiming for the Human Rights Fellowship to have a sustained presence at Brandeis School of Law and to continue and accelerate work with the rest of the community on human rights issues.

“I hope to build something that is lasting and will provide assistance to our local community – both service providers and the immigrant/refugee/noncitizen community,” Trucios-Haynes said.

Once a dent has been made in the research and execution of the immigration project, the Brandeis Human Rights Fellowship’s focus could shift to other topics, such as women in detention centers, educational access or wage issues. The objective, however, will remain the same.

“There is a significant community need for these types of services and we will be more effective if we meet these needs holistically," Abrams said.

Demographic Information

Noncitizens and foreign-born citizens account for growing shares of Kentucky’s economy and population. The foreign-born make up 3.4 percent of the state’s population, and over one-third of foreign-born individuals are naturalized U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote. Kentucky’s foreign-born population has grown from 0.9 percent in 1990, to 2.0 percent in 2000, to 3.4 percent in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The numbers of undocumented persons within any state is a notoriously difficult number to ascertain.  The current estimate is that 35,000 undocumented individuals live in Kentucky, which could represent over 20 percent of the total foreign-born population in the state. The estimate for the number of undocumented in Kentucky in 2009 was 50,000 and as high as 80,000 in 2010 as reported by the Migration Policy Institute and Pew Hispanic Research Center.[

A Note on Terminology

We use the phrase “noncitizen and refugee community” to identify the entire international population in the region. Our report uses the terminology of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to refer to the international population of Kentucky and the region.

We are aware that the term “internationals” is frequently used in the Louisville area to refer to the entire foreign-born community. The term foreign-born is used by the U.S. Census Bureau to include anyone who was not a U.S. citizen at birth and, therefore, includes individuals who have become U.S. citizens through the naturalization process. The INA uses the term “alien” to include “any person not a citizen or national of the United States.”

Frequently, the term “noncitizen” is used to avoid the pejorative implications of the statutory terminology. Our report does not use the term “immigrant” because the INA defines an immigrant as a noncitizen authorized to reside permanently in the U.S., which includes a smaller group within the community of noncitizens and refugees.