The initial work on the grant has included an extensive needs assessment effort identifying ways in which the law school could be active in the community on human rights issues. Together with the faculty supervisors, the 2014-15 LBFG Human Rights Fellows – Janet Lewis, Katherine Hall and Ben Potash – spent the school year examining what services are being provided to the immigrant population in the City of Louisville. Their preliminary findings have been communicated to local service providers and at a Muhammad Ali Center event which was geared toward the local immigrant/refugee community.
Additionally, the incoming fellows will use this research as a springboard to continue identifying unmet needs and to find solutions and opportunities. The preliminary findings were broken down into challenges/opportunities:
Challenge: Nearly all organizations surveyed consistently identified outreach challenges.
Opportunity: The Fellowship Program could be helpful in the effort to increase outreach efforts, including via a condensed resource guide and community-based needs assessments.
Challenge: Multiple respondents expressed support for more collaboration and communication among providers.
Opportunity: The Fellowship could host regular liaison meetings among organizations and others interested in the topic and any research projects could serve a dual purpose of distributing information to service providers and educating the community at large.
Challenge: Language access is identified as a “critical need,” including at domestic violence intake centers and courthouses.
Opportunity: Regular working group meetings can identify general gaps in language access services, as well as issues at government offices.
Challenge: Few comprehensive reports consider immigration and/or human rights issues in the city/state.
Opportunity: The Fellowship aims to provide public education about the legal system and human rights issues. Narrower topics affecting undocumented noncitizens can also be researched by fellows.
Challenge: Louisville’s noncitizen, immigrant and refugee population needs holistic services addressing a variety of concerns.
Opportunity: The Fellowship could act as a direct service provider via pro bono legal services in conjunction with other service providers.
With these findings, the group’s next objective is to develop and sustain an understanding of noncitizen population needs, and to address these needs more holistically.
The Human Rights fellows entering law school will be committed to implementing these recommendations and will work with alumni on cases, create outreach presentations and help come up with legislative proposals. They will also unveil a final report during the fall semester, create a resource guide for dissemination at schools, churches, community centers, etc., and host an annual summit of service providers.