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Published November 20, 2014
The International Human Rights Clinic at the College of Law is dedicated to educating law students to address international legal problems and to protect the human rights of individuals both at home and abroad. Students undertake faculty-supervised legal representation in domestic immigration cases in order to give a voice to those in need, and when they’re called upon to help those in the UW family, UW law students rise to the occasion.
The College of Law is pleased to announce a victory in the immigration case of former UW basketball player and alumnus, Bienvenu “Benny” Songondo. Benny’s home country has been engulfed by civil war and ethnic-based violence. Beginning in 2012, the International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Wyoming College of Law took on representation of Benny’s immigration case to remain in the United States. Students and faculty at the law school worked tirelessly for more than two years in support of Benny’s claim to remain in the US. In the summer of 2014, the Denver Immigration Court ruled in Benny’s favor, giving him permanent status and a pathway to U.S. citizenship.
The International Human Rights Clinic was started in 2010. Since that time, students have travelled to 11 countries around the world working on human rights issues and have successfully represented more than 30 clients in asylum cases, learning first-hand how to represent clients and navigate complex legal issues. Mary Freeman (J.D. ’14), a former student director of the International Human Rights Clinic reflects on the value of their work. “Every case I have worked on has been a rewarding experience, but Benny’s case was particularly special because of his deep ties to the UW community. This case is a great example of how international human rights issues can hit close to home, and also how UW is effectively preparing students to act as advocates and enabling them to address these issues head-on.”
While gaining valuable work experience is important, the underlying mission of the International Human Rights Clinic – as it is for all 6 clinics at the law school – is to make a difference in true Wyoming fashion. Benny’s case is an important reminder of the bonds that we share at Wyoming. On the court, at the law school, throughout the university and around the state, we are committed to helping others and we embrace our UW family.
Pictured: 2014-2015 International Human Rights Clinics members