The University of Texas at Austin   School of Law

The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice

Partners for change at the intersection of academics and advocacy.


Rapoport Center Announces 9 Summer Fellowships for 2009


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(L-R) 2009 Rapoport Summer Fellows: Yu, Wiley, Hinojosa, Orliner, Velarde, Tepfer, Suarez and Sims (not pictured: Aldrich).

AUSTIN, Texas―Nine UT law students have been selected by the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice as Rapoport Summer Fellows. They will fan out to non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations across the United States and the globe to work toward the enfranchisement of marginalized individuals and groups. Their projects include protecting access to natural resources, advocating for the rights of indigent immigrants and asylum seekers, working on issues of racial justice, including the school to prison pipeline, and engaging in legal reform of women's rights.

Before heading to destinations as diverse as Beijing, Phnom Penh, Washington D.C. and Brasilia, the students will receive fellowships to cover travel costs and living expenses. The fellowships are made possible by a generous grant from the Cain Foundation, a longtime supporter of international legal placements at the law school, and the Orlando Letelier and Ronnie Karpen Moffitt Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Law, which supports students who engage in pro bono legal work in the area of human rights.

“The internship program is a unique opportunity. I hope that the students gain several things out of the program,” said Professor Ariel Dulitzky, Director of the Human Rights Clinic. “First, the on-the-job experience that the internship can provide; second, getting to know another culture and gaining global awareness; and finally, to see human rights advocacy from the inside and to cultivate the knowledge, skills, connections and critical thinking they will need to have a real impact in their future professional work.”

This year's fellowships are awarded to:

Russell Aldrich, to work at the Center for Social Development in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He will work towards increasing transparency, accountability, and public awareness in the governance of Cambodia’s natural resources and towards getting proposed anti-corruption legislation passed through the legislature.

Joseph Hinojosa, to work at the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project in Harlingen, Texas. He will be working with ProBAR attorneys in serving detained adolescent asylum-seekers from Central America. He will assist ProBAR staff with client intake, legal research, and in providing direct representation in immigration court.

Leigh Orliner, to work at the Due Process Law Foundation in Washington D.C. She will work on the Equal Access to Justice Program, conducting research on conflicts between indigenous communities and governments in Latin America over land rights and natural resources.

Shannon Sims, to work at the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment for Brazil (IBAMA) and the Brazilian Supreme Court on a project on water as a human right. She will research the ways in which modern international environmental law can support sustainable development among coastal and island communities where tourism is the main economic engine, and yet access to clean drinking water is limited.

Hector Suarez, to work at the Colorado State Public Defender in Denver, Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Immigration Advocacy Center in Westminster, Colorado. He will focus primarily on researching the immigration consequences of common minor crimes in order to create training materials for Public Defenders throughout Colorado. He will also conduct research into the ongoing efforts by state and local authorities to target immigrants through the criminal justice system, efforts largely stemming from frustration over the lack of comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level.

Reid Tepfer, to work at Children at Risk in Houston, Texas. He will conduct research into various models of direct services and shelters in other states to see how trafficking victims are accommodated throughout the country, visit various facilities for trafficking victims throughout Houston, and contribute to a book on the state of international and domestic human trafficking in Texas.

Cynthia Velarde, to work at the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas in Austin, Texas. Her work will focus specifically on any active litigation that the ACLU may have with respect to racial justice issues, including immigration, prison and jail conditions, police misconduct, and the school to prison pipeline. 

Matthew Wiley, to work at American Gateways, an immigration law services organization working in Austin and the central Texas area.  He will develop and translate affidavits, contribute to preparation for deportation hearings, travel to immigration detention centers to assist with legal orientation programs, and compile reports on the countries of origin of refugees and asylum seekers.

Mimi Yu, to work at the Beijing University Women's Legal Aid Center in Beijing, China. She will be engaged in legal research and advocacy projects for legal reform of women’s rights in China. The projects and research will involve cases of domestic violence, sexual harassment, rural women’s rights, employment discrimination, and migrant workers’ rights currently at issue in China.

Read about the 2008 summer fellows, 2007 summer fellows, 2006 summer fellows and the 2005 summer fellows , or learn more about the Rapoport Summer Fellowships.