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UW International Human Rights Clinic Helps Former UW Basketball Player with Permanent Residency

November 20, 2014
head portrait of man
Benny Songondo

Former University of Wyoming basketball player Bienvenu “Benny” Songondo is one step closer to gaining U.S. citizenship, thanks to the International Human Rights Clinic in the UW College of Law.

UW College of Law students and faculty worked for more than two years to support Songondo’s claim to remain in the United States. This past summer, the Denver Immigration Court ruled in Songondo’s favor, giving him permanent status and a pathway to U.S. citizenship.

The former Cowboy was seeking citizenship because his home country in the Central African Republic has been engulfed by civil war and ethnic-based violence. International Human Rights Clinic members took on Songondo’s immigration case in 2012.

“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,” says Mary Freeman, the clinic’s former student director. “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 man shooting basket in basketball gamethese issues head on.”

The UW College of Law’s International Human Rights Clinic focuses on educating law students to address international legal problems and to protect the human rights of individuals, both at home and abroad, says the clinic’s director, Suzan Pritchett, a UW College of Law assistant professor.

“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,” Pritchett says.

The clinic was started in 2010 and, since that time, UW law students have traveled to 11 countries around the world working on human rights issues and have successfully represented more than 30 clients in asylum cases. The students learn first-hand how to represent clients and navigate complex legal issues.

While gaining valuable work experience is important, the underlying mission of the International Human Rights Clinic -- and for all six clinics at the law school -- is to make a difference in “true Wyoming fashion,” Pritchett says.

“Benny’s case is an important reminder of the bonds that we share at Wyoming,” she adds. “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.”

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