The lab offers students the opportunity to engage in non-litigation strategies and collaborate with state, national, and international human rights organizations on legislative and rule-making proposals, policy matters, research papers, and amicus briefs. Topics may include immigrant rights, trafficking, domestic workers, gender violence, police and prison reform, U.S. obligations under the Convention Against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights with regard to specific local issues, and various other human rights treaty obligations and compliance. Students work with organizations currently seeking to reframe domestic issues as human rights issues, and engage in various law-related campaigns aimed at addressing economic, social, and cultural human rights violations.
Recent Research & Reports
This report provides an overview of two topics of concern to immigration attorneys and their clients.
The first section reviews administrative law, including the statutory and the case law doctrines that determine whether and what deference is to be afforded by federal courts to agency decisions as well as examples of when such issues might arise in an immigration case.
While administrative law is continuously changing, this paper aims to introduce key concepts that immigration attorneys should be familiar with. The first section also includes recent developments in immigration law, with a specific focus on the administrative issues involved.
The second section focuses on legal developments in the Fourth Circuit and reviews the decisions that affect the determination of whether an applicant has successfully established grounds for asylum based on two types of particular social groups: claims based on domestic violence and family/kinship relations.
This report aims to serve as a compendium of administrative law and asylum law for particular social groups in the Fourth Circuit as the complexity in articulating particular social group claims continues to develop.
The UNC School of Law Human Rights Policy Lab submitted a 35-page communication in the form of a letter-petition to 10 UN human rights experts who oversee U.S. international human rights treaty obligations. The communication was submitted on behalf of the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture, an organization working to bring about justice for victims of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition and torture program and, in particular, its operations in North Carolina. This communication calls attention to the unaddressed human rights violations committed by the U.S. government, the state of North Carolina and its political subdivisions, as well as Aero Contractors, incorporated in North Carolina and located at the Johnston County Airport and the North Carolina Global TransPark in North Carolina. The letter calls upon members of various UN rapporteurships and working groups to take any and all other action permitted by the various mandates to investigate North Carolina, its political subdivisions, and Aero Contractors for its complicity in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition and torture program.
The state of North Carolina, its political subdivisions, and Aero Contractors were fully engaged with the CIA’s extraordinary rendition and torture program from at least 2001 to 2006. These entities participated in the kidnapping and transporting of individuals to secret detention facilities where they were subjected to interrogation through torture. To date, neither the state, its political subdivisions, nor Aero have acknowledged their well-documented involvement in this criminal enterprise constituting egregious human rights violations and have refused to provide any form of reparations to the individuals whose lives they tore apart. In light of such official denial and inaction, this report urges North Carolina, its political entities, and Aero to make reparations to the victims of their human rights abuses. This report does so by examining various international tribunals and national governments’ legal obligations to and practical reality of providing reparations to victims of extraordinary rendition and torture and similar abuses. This examination is intended to serve as a model for the types of reparations that North Carolina, its political subdivisions, and Aero ought to provide to its victims, including, among others, public acknowledgement of wrongdoing and apology; investigation and criminal prosecution; legal and institutional reform; monetary compensation; and the dedication of memorials to the remembrance of victims. Read Report on Reparations for Victims of Extraordinary Rendition and Torture.
This handbook provides guidance for anyone considering serving as an expert witness in an asylum case, as well as best practices for immigration attorneys working with expert in asylum cases. The role of an expert witness is often crucial in asylum cases. The primary purpose of this handbook is to expand the roster of expert witnesses willing to serve as experts in asylum cases by providing guidance and information about the asylum process and explaining the role of experts in that process. While every asylum case is different, the information in the handbook provides a foundation for those who have never served as an expert in an asylum case but may be contemplating such a role, and those who have already served as experts and seek additional information about the process.
In order to encourage and develop expert asylum resources, this handbook provides experts with a basic overview of asylum law. The handbook then reviews the various roles and contributions of an expert, how one qualifies as an expert, and how experts can best assist attorneys.
This handbook also provides suggestions and recommendations to asylum attorneys who may seek to engage the services of expert witnesses. To that end, the handbook identifies best practices for attorneys collaborating with experts drawn from interviews with experienced asylum attorneys, experienced expert witnesses, and individuals currently contemplating whether to offer their services as experts in asylum matters.
Following the declaration of the “war on terror” in September 2001, the U.S. government led the way in constructing a global system of detention, kidnapping and prisoner transfers (extraordinary rendition), and torture. The system involved the detention and torture, in secret, of hundreds of detainees, in scores of detention sites around the world. Many, perhaps most citizens are not aware of this program, but it is a system that in fact existed, was always contrary to international and domestic laws, and the dissemination of knowledge about the program is one step on the way to taking responsibility for it and for ways to prevent it in the future.
Extraordinary renditions have been carried out using a variety of aircraft supplied by private contractors. The first report provides the narratives of the victims of torture who were extraordinary rendered on airplanes operated by Aero Contractors, headquartered in North Carolina. These planes flew out of Johnston County Airport, a political subdivision of the state of North Carolina, and the North Carolina Global TransPark, a state-created industrial transportation park. The second report provides an overview of the history, ideology, and political structure of extraordinary rendition as revealed by the narratives.
The detention system relied upon by the government was outside the law. The extraordinary rendition and prison transfers facilitated by airplanes that flew out of North Carolina were illegal. Torture is illegal. These reports were compiled with the hope that the revelation of circumstances and egregious violations suffered by the victims will yield transparency, repair and restoration as required by the law.
This Policy Report examines various international human rights treaties relevant to the U.S. program of Extraordinary Rendition and Torture. During the “War on Terror,” the CIA transported individuals to black sites across the globe and subjected them to unspeakable torture. North Carolina has a tragic and undeniable link to this practice of abducting foreign nationals, without process, and transferring them either to foreign or CIA custody overseas, typically to be subject to extended interrogation and torture. The CIA transported individuals to these black sites on planes operated by Aero Contractors headquartered in Johnston County, North Carolina.
The report demonstrates the applicability of human rights treaties to the United States, North Carolina, its political subdivisions, and Aero Contractors. Chapter One explains international human rights treaties and their significance with emphasis on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture. Chapter Two analyzes the use of Reservations, Understandings and Declarations attached to treaties to limit treaty enforceability in the context of the Supremacy Clause and the Vienna Convention on Treaties. Chapter Three considers treaty enforceability in the context of the U.S. system of federalism. Chapter Four revisits the egregious human rights atrocities committed under the extraordinary rendition program and highlights the international, federal, and state statutes that prohibit torture and extraordinary rendition which can be used to hold participants liable for their role in the extraordinary rendition program.
In 2015, there were 244 million international migrants, of which 12 million come from Mexico. The United States alone hosts the vast majority of these Mexican-born migrants, while Canada and Spain follow as the second and third largest receiving countries respectively. The Mexican diaspora raises an important question: what human rights obligations do countries, sending and receiving, owe to this immigrant population and to what degree are these obligations being met? The Policy Report will attempt to answer this question by examining the human rights of Mexican migrants in the United States, Canada and Spain. It summarizes the specific international and regional human rights treaties that apply to migrants with a focus on family, labor and human rights concerns and discusses migrant access to civil legal services to evaluate each country’s fulfillment of the human rights obligation to provide the right to a remedy. The Policy Report concludes by offering opportunities for further research.
Following September 2001, the United States government declared a ‘war on terror’ and embarked upon a program of extraordinary rendition and unlawful prisoner transfers, interrogation by torture, and a global system of detention outside the law. Since that time, there has been a concerted and global effort to bring about accountability for the U.S. rendition and torture program.
This policy report, Assessing Recent Developments: Achieving Accountability for Torture, reviews new developments to obtain compliance with U.S. human rights obligations and relief for victims of torture, including U.S. commitments made to the UN Committee Against Torture and the UN Human Rights Council, the release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report on Torture, decisions by international and foreign courts, reports by journalists who continue to expose and educate the public about the U.S. Rendition and Interrogation Program, as well as the ongoing advocacy of committed human rights organizations.
These efforts have served to encourage accountability. While the U.S. government continues to refuse to “look back” and prevents torture victims from advancing their claims, it is nonetheless crucial to take stock of changed circumstances and determine how they may best serve ongoing advocacy efforts on behalf of torture victims. We believe that the task of advocates is to press into service the recent U.S. commitments, disclosures, judicial theories, advocacy strategies, and the global concerns that point to accountability and remedy for torture.
In this report, the UNC School of Law’s Human Rights Policy Lab addresses the concept of meaningful access to legal representation as a basic human rights. The report, A Basic Human Right: Meaningful Access to Legal Representation, provides an overview of the current state of access to counsel in the United States with a focus on civil proceedings, immigration removal proceedings, and the criminal defense system. It demonstrates that the United States has failed to meet its international and regional human rights obligations despite findings by international and regional bodies that have repeatedly noted its deficiencies in protecting the legal rights of poor and vulnerable people. Without meaningful access to legal representation, substantive affirmative rights and legal protections guaranteed by domestic and international law are meaningless to those who cannot afford legal representation. The Report is intended to aid advocates looking to international and regional human rights bodies, specifically the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, for assistance in reforming the system in the United States and in pressuring the U.S. government to provide a universal right to meaningful access to legal representation.
In collaboration with the Institute for the Study of the America’s Latino Migration project known as Building Integrated Communities (BIC), this policy report, Building Integrated Communities Through Language Rights, provides a resource for statewide entities and initiatives working to assist communities in meeting their legal and other obligations to assure language access and support the language rights of minority populations. It is intended to assist and augment the efforts of the BIC whose purpose is to support local governments and diverse community stakeholders so that they might have the tools to generate locally-relevant strategies to strengthen immigrant civic engagement, linguistic achievement, and economic/educational advancement.
Section One outlines relevant international law and human rights norms concerning language rights within the international and regional human rights system. It further describes the European Union’s approach to language rights and language access based on the EU concept that language access is tied to human dignity and cultural identity, and thus, may serve as a model of what can be accomplished in terms of integrated social communities in the United States.
Section Two provides an overview of the approach that U.S. domestic law has employed in addressing issues related to language rights: a civil rights approach. This Section includes an in-depth review of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a statute that prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin. This section explains the obligations of both grantors of federal funds as well as recipients of federal funds.
Section Three provides an assessment of language access in select areas: public safety, transportation, workforce and employment, and health care. The state and local agencies that operate in these areas provide services that are essential to the day-to-day well-being of persons with a limited English proficiency. These are also some of the agencies that will be in the most frequent contact with persons that have limited English proficiency. The Section also provides example protocols to assist agencies and municipalities to comply with their legal obligations as efficiently and effectively as possible. Finally this Section explains the work of the BIC efforts to foster immigrant integration with an emphasis on improving language accessibility by highlighting exemplary efforts of two BIC municipality partnerships: High Point and Winston-Salem.
Section Four focuses on a particularly vulnerable population: unaccompanied minors. Given the vulnerability of these children and their imprecise and changing or evolving legal status, communities should have the benefit of the facts of their arrival, as well as information about their rights, including language rights, as they take up residence in our communities.
It is hoped that the information in this report will create stronger, more vibrant, and more humane communities.
Brief on behalf of Abou Elkassim Britel submitted to: Mr. Juan Méndez, Special Rapportuer on the Convention Against Torture, Mr. Ben Emmerson, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, Mr. Ariel Dulitzky, Chair-Rapporteur, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Mr. Mads Andenas, Chair-Rapporteur, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Mr. Pablo de Greiff, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.
As part of its commitment to exposing violations of the basic human rights, the Immigration/Human Rights Policy Clinic (I/HRP) (now the Human Rights Policy Lab) at the University of North Carolina School of Law in collaboration with the ACLU of North Carolina, North Carolina Stop Torture Now, and the law firm of Edelstein and Payne, announces the release of its report, Solitary Confinement as Torture. The report seeks to contribute to a growing national advocacy movement that has identified solitary confinement as a cruel, inhuman, and degrading form of punishment that is—or at the very least approximates—torture and a severe form of human rights violation. The report seeks to bring about the end of its use.
Torture is one of the basest violations of human rights and shared democratic ideals. Under North Carolina’s state constitution, the federal constitution, as well as international law, the nation and the state of North Carolina must not be complicit in any act that falls within this category of atrocity. The duty to take responsibility for human rights violations encompasses the obligation to enlarge an understanding of that which constitutes torture and how it is manifested in various institutions and implemented by various actors. In this interest, we have endeavored to investigate and shine a light on the realities of the use of solitary confinement within the prison system with a focus on the state of North Carolina.
The report incorporates a wide range of sources to parse out not only the practice and the outcomes of isolation, but also the evolution of the substantive response to these conditions of confinement. It examines the U.S. Constitution and its protections, the international standards that the United States as a nation has endorsed, as well as North Carolina state legal protections. The conclusion reached is stark and straightforward: solitary confinement is ineffective at decreasing violence within prisons; it is ineffective at preserving public safety; it is ineffective at managing scarce monetary resources; and it violates the boundaries of human dignity and justice.
This policy brief, Visa Denied: The Political Geography of the U Visa: Eligibility as a Matter of Locale, undertaken with ASISTA Immigration Assistance examines problems related to the U visa program and law enforcement certification practices. Despite the salutary purposes of the U visa statute, immigrant advocates have observed that there is no uniformity among U visa certification polices. Certification practices vary among different law enforcement agencies and in different jurisdictions. As a result, some immigrant victims who meet the statutory elements are successful in obtaining the signed I-918B certification form and, ultimately, the U visa. Other immigrant victims with virtually identical fact patterns are often denied certification by agencies whose policies run contrary to the Congressional intent in establishing the U visa program. These applicants, thus, have no chance to obtain consideration of their U visa application by USCIS as they are unable to meet the requirement of submitting an I-918B certification.
Section One examines data and survey responses obtained from a survey conducted by the UNC Immigration/Human Rights Policy clinic in cooperation with ASISTA Immigration Assistance as well as other information gathered about the problem. The data demonstrates that law enforcement agency certification policies are often inconsistent with the purpose of the statute and contribute to the problematic phenomenon of “geographical roulette” for U visa applicants, allowing agency and crime location to determine the remedy’s availability rather than the actual merits of an applicant’s petition.
Section Two identifies the legal policy considerations, and demonstrates the need for corrective action and reform at the federal level and state level.
Section Three sets forth legal recommendations and advocacy strategies to respond to the problems identified in the report.
This policy brief illuminates the practices that best serve the important federal statutory objectives, as well as those that thwart Congressional intentions. The brief’s legal analysis and legal policy recommendations serve to demonstrate the ways in which the U visa can and must be improved so that immigrants who are victims of crimes may avail themselves of a program designed for their benefit, and so that communities everywhere may enjoy greater safety and security.
Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States dramatically expanded the use of extraordinary rendition, an intelligence-gathering program through which individuals suspected of terrorism were abducted and transported beyond the reach of the law, held incommunicado and interrogated by torture. Detained for years, many victims of the extraordinary rendition program were never formally charged with any crime, never given the opportunity to contact their families or an attorney, and were eventually just discarded once the CIA realized that these individuals had nothing to do with the actual terrorist threat against the United States. These acts of kidnapping and torture occurred despite international treaties, federal statutes, and judicial precedents that prohibit such acts under any and all circumstances. Although the victims have sought redress in the federal courts of the United States for the harms they have suffered, they have been denied their day in court.
North Carolina is a hub for extraordinary rendition. In a report released in January 2012 and endorsed by international human rights experts, the ways in which North Carolina, its political subdivisions, and Aero, a corporation based in Johnston County, NC were directly and indirectly responsible for carrying out the kidnapping and torture have been demonstrated. This Policy Report, Obligations and Obstacles: Holding North Carolina Accountable for Extraordinary Rendition and Torture, builds on the January 2012 report. Part One of this report establishes the legal basis for North Carolina’s obligation to investigate Aero Contractors and for its own accountability for facilitating extraordinary rendition. Part Two demonstrates that although international, federal, and state laws require a mechanism of accountability for extraordinary rendition and torture, the federal government’s invocation of the State Secrets Doctrine has effectively barred victims of torture and the extraordinary rendition program from obtaining any form of judicial redress through the U.S. court system. In light of these obstacles, this Report offers recommendations toward achieving accountability.
The Immigration/Human Rights Policy Clinic announces the release of its report Picking Empty Pockets. This policy paper documents the phenomenon of wage theft through the stories of North Carolina workers, while also offering an overview of federal, state, and local remedies. The report finds that some of the worst wage theft occurs with immigrant and undocumented workers, who are often threatened with or fear being reported to U.S. officials, and thus refrain from filing complaints against their employers. The policy report uses a human rights framework by which to encourage legislators and policy makers to implement new protections and offer improved avenues of recourse to those who have suffered wage theft.
The Immigration/Human Rights Policy Clinic presents its Briefing Book, A Call to Uphold the Core Universal Principles of Responsibility and Protection of Human Rights Extraordinary Rendition, Torture, And North Carolina. This Briefing Book provides an analysis of international human rights law, federal law and other accountability mechanisms in support of two main goals:
- to provide support for the creation of a North Carolina Commission of Inquiry to bring human rights home and make meaningful international laws and norms by encouraging and facilitating institutional change to end abusive practices that occur in our own backyard
- to document research and reports that bear on the issue and compile legal and policy analyses for use by the Commission.
Part One summarizes the factual background of North Carolina’s involvement in extraordinary rendition and torture. Part Two describes the applicability of relevant provisions applicable extraordinary rendition and torture found in international law. Part Three explores domestic legal avenues for achieving accountability including federal statutes, civil suits, and proposed legislation. Part Four draws on the principles explored in the Parts II and III and demonstrates the theories that establish liability for the state of North Carolina and its political subdivisions including Johnston County and the Johnston County Airport Authority, Aero Contractors, and private citizens as bystanders. Part Five summarizes international accountability measures, compares those measures with domestic calls for accountability, and provides recommendations for the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture.
The Immigration/Human Rights Clinic is pleased to release its Wage Theft and U Visas: A Guide to Analyzing Federal and State Crimes Relevant for Undocumented Workers.This document identifies the relevant federal crimes listed in the U visa statute that are most likely related to wage theft. Following the federal statutes, the document lists the relevant state statutes and elements that most closely track federal crimes (using North Carolina as an example). The document also suggests preliminary interview questions that would be likely to solicit relevant and helpful information to demonstrate that a victim of wage theft might be eligible for a U visa. This document should be helpful to lawyers and advocates who work with immigrant workers who suffer the crime of wage theft.
The Immigration/Human Rights Policy (IHRP) Clinic has released its briefing book, A Legal Advocacy Guide to Building Integrated Communities in North Carolina, as part of the Building Integrated Communities Project, a collaborative endeavor designed to create and implement a comprehensive community integration plan with municipalities and immigrant communities. In light of the increasing immigrant population, integration of immigrants into North Carolina communities is a critical issue.
The briefing book consists of both legal analyses and applied legal policy proposals which are intended to serve as resources for community integration efforts. Part One of this report, entitled “Making the Legal Argument for Integrated Communities: Immigrants in North Carolina,” provides a legal foundation for mounting local integrated community efforts which is tailored to North Carolina municipalities, and seeks to explore what municipalities in North Carolina must, can, and should do to facilitate community integration.
Parts Two and Three of this report apply the legal concepts explored in Part One in the context of two discrete community integration efforts in which IHRP took part. Part Two, “Community Integration and Day Laborers in North Carolina,” chronicles the challenges faced by day laborers in the Chapel Hill and Carrboro communities, and provides comprehensive policy and legal analysis of potential solutions to these problems. Part Three, “Local Law Enforcement: A Vital Part of Community Integration,” analyzes the complex relationship between immigrants and local law enforcement, including an examination of how local law enforcement should assist immigrant victims of domestic violence and how local police departments may be approached by the IHRP Clinic to discuss community policing policies.
It is the intent of IHRP to engage in the policy projects described in Parts II and III in order to help further the abstract goals of the Building Integrated Communities Project, and also so that these discrete projects can serve as models in their own right, demonstrating proactive efforts which may be taken on behalf of immigrants and inspiring future efforts by the IHRP Clinic and other groups.
Immigration/Human Rights Policy clinic released a report on North Carolina’s connection to extraordinary rendition and torture. The report undertaken on behalf of North Carolina Stop Torture Now, is based on evidence obtained from a review of hundreds of documents including declassified and other U.S. government materials; investigative reports from international institutional sources, journalists’ sources, public documents pertaining to airports located in Smithfield and Kinston, NC and the testimony of individuals who survived extraordinary rendition. It sets out a factual record about Aero Contractors, a company based in North Carolina, and its role in the program known as extraordinary rendition and details the ways in which the state of North Carolina and its political subdivisions have facilitated Aero’s participation in this program. The report has been endorsed by international human rights specialists including Prof. Manfred Nowak, past UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Prof. Martin Scheinin, past Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism, and Senator Dick. Marty who served as president of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly.
North Carolina has witnessed a dramatic demographic shift. In addition to a growing Hispanic community, North Carolina has also seen an influx of Vietnamese and Burmese populations in recent decades. While it is difficult to identify what percentage of these individuals speak a language other than English, data indicates that a sizeable portion of the state’s population cannot communicate fully in English. As the state’s Limited English Population (LEP) grows in size, so does the frequency with which these individuals must interact with our court system. Currently, there is no state statutory or administrative guarantee to a foreign language interpreter. North Carolina’s policies and practices with regard to interpreters in the court raise a number of legal concerns that range from a denial of interpreters to lack of quality control relating to the use of interpreters.
A federal law granting local police and sheriffs the power to act as immigration officials when faced with dangerous criminals or terrorists has instead created a climate of racial profiling and community insecurity, according to researchers at UNC School of Law. A team of law students, led by Deborah Weissman, Reef C. Ivey II Distinguished Professor of Law and director of Clinical Programs at UNC School of Law, and Katherine Parker and Rebecca Headen, lawyers with the ACLU in North Carolina Legal Foundation, released a report on the 287(g) Program in North Carolina titled, “The Policies and Politics of Local Immigration Enforcement Law.” The report found that the agencies most closely reviewed have failed to comply with contracts governing the program, and proposes solutions, including greater transparency and a functional system for complaints or appeals.
The clinic contributed to the written response to the Congressional Oversight Committee for International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination on the rise of racial profiling, discrimination and abuse in immigrant communities as a result of local enforcement of immigration law.
Interrogation & Detention Reform Act of 2008: A Critical Analysis demonstrates the critical need for legislation that will fully foreclose the possibility of torture and extraordinary rendition from occurring in the future. One such effort is the Interrogation and Detention Reform Act of 2008 (IDRA), H.R. 591, introduced by Representative David Price of North Carolina. This paper provides a comprehensive analysis of the gaps in the existing legal framework that this legislation seeks to fill. Additionally, it provides suggestions on issues not addressed by this legislation relating to the treatment and detention of terror suspects that must be addressed, including a more explicitly defined prohibition on torture and a prohibition of extraordinary rendition. Finally, it addresses the issue of accountability for human rights violations that have occurred in recent years.
Across North Carolina, increasing numbers of immigrants are being apprehended and locked up in county jails for months or even years pending the final outcome of their immigration cases. In response to increased detention, this report Dangerous Detention: Human Rights Standards & Enforcement in Immigration Detention aims to provide advocates with the knowledge and tools to hold government authorities accountable for violations of immigrant detainee rights.