8/25/16

CGJ Student Staff Participate in Regent Law's Community Service Day


On Saturday, August 20, 2016, Regent Law students, faculty, and alumni joined together for the 8th Annual Community Service Day.

Several Center for Global Justice student staff members joined the group in reaching out to the local community including the Union Mission and the Bridge Christian Fellowship. A pizza party will followed at Regent University School of Law.

Volunteers sorted and distributed clothing, food items, and did yard work.

"I had a thoroughly enjoyable time serving Union Mission Ministries!" said one student staff member.  "The four hours spent weeding under the bright sun sped by because I was able to bond with new students and professors alike."

"The Community Service Day was an awesome opportunity to serve our fellow brothers and sisters while also meeting new classmates," said another staff member.

WVEC, a local television news station arrived at Union Mission and took some footage.    You can view the clip (from marker 6:16-7:36) below:


The Complexity of the Conflict Between Israel and Palestine

3L Michaela Pannell interned this summer with Jerusalem Institute of Justice.

This summer while I interning for the Jerusalem Institute of Justice I learned of the complexity of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. I had the incredible opportunity to research the history and basis for the conflict between the two groups.

As Christians we generally (and rightly) fall on the side of Israel because of God’s unique and special relationship with Israel. God indeed promised Israel to the Jewish people and we, as most Christians, correctly view the current situation as the Jews finally “coming home.”

Because of these biblical truths, however, we tend to be blindly one-sided.

“Israel is God’s country, and therefore Israel can do no wrong,” we say. At one point this summer we were talking to a Jewish man recently out of the service; he mentioned that “Israel is the land of milk and honey, but it is only the land of milk and honey for those who belong here.”  This struck me.

Though Israel is in fact given to the Jewish people, it, including its military, is still made up of and run by human beings. As a result, Israel has its faults—just like any other country. As Christians, we should not condemn Palestine for their human right violations and at the same time make excuses for Israel’s human right violations.

In other words, we can be pro-Israel without being anti-Palestinian and be pro-Palestinian without being anti-Israel. Granted, this conflict is far more complicated than what I can write in a blog post.

But, as Christians we must remember that Israel and Palestine are made up of human beings – created in the image of God, and our job is to love and disciple both groups.

This post was written by a Center for Global Justice student intern.  The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice. 

8/24/16

Combating Sexual Exploitation

Leah Oswald interned this summer with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) in Washington, D.C., a non-profit organization dedicated to stopping pornography and exposing the links between pornography and sexual exploitation.  Leah worked in the law center at NCOSE updating and editing the Sexually Orientated Business manual (a manual that is used by local governments to enact ordinances aimed that curbing sexually orientated businesses). 

MENTAL PREP WORK

Today I woke up for work, got ready, and had to mentally prepare myself to go to work at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE). While working for NCOSE, the most unexpected thing I have encountered is coming face-to-face with the reality of sexual exploitation. I knew that sexual exploitation existed in various forms, but since I've started working for the National Center, I'm finding sexual exploitation is a much more pervasive problem that many people brush under the rug. And I understand why people are scared to talk about this—it’s everywhere and it’s profitable. Our society sells sex (e.g., Game of Thrones, The Girlfriend Experience, PornHub, strip clubs, massage parlours . . . just to name a few). But here’s the problem I've encountered: sexual exploitation harms women and men in a very real way, and what am I going to do to combat this problem? There are so many ways to get involved but the scary thing is that our society says that sex is great. Sex is what makes us "awesome and sexy" and it's hard to stand up to an idea that is so endemic. So the most unexpected thing here at the National Center isn't the work load; instead, it's learning how to channel my emotional outrage at this sexual exploitation issue into productive counter measures.

And you know, maybe I should’ve realized when I took this position that with “sexual exploitation” in the title, this job was going to be emotionally trying. But in the past couple weeks, my heart has broken repeatedly. The most challenging thing at my externship hasn’t been the onerous amounts of research, editing, and writing; it’s been maintaining my emotional welfare. Here’s one example of why my heart broke: in the Illicit Massage Parlor (IMP) business there are websites upon which, after paying a small fee, a user can search for an IMP, rank it (“it” often meaning the sexual services offered by the women who, by the way, are often victims of sex trafficking) and tell other users about their “service.” It’s sick enough to read reviews by married men complaining about their wife not “giving it up so they had to go here,” but it’s worse to realize that the lingo which pervades this sick group of people is common among everyone. For instance, a user make rank a women “ATF butterface.” This means “All Time Favorite” (ATF) and her body is incredible but her face isn’t so great (butterface). When I read a review similar to this I was sick because I realized that I recognized that term ‘butterface’ from a male who had used that word in high school. But how did this young teen male know this word that is so pervasive among porn users and IMP’s? That’s when it really hit me. The link between porn, the sex trafficking business, and sexual exploitation really is endemic. I don’t know if IMP businesses and the porn industry borrow from popular culture phrases such as ‘butterface’ or if all these people saying the word have been, in some way, exposed to porn and IMPs, but either way, it’s saddening and sick. So, the most challenging thing is keeping my emotional welfare in balance while trying to fight the sexual exploitation of women by men who don’t care about systematically exploiting and raping these women. But there is hope and I can never forget that. There are people out there who are fighting for these women. These women are made in God’s image and therefore naturally endowed with dignity and I pray that someday that dignity will be fully realized and reached.

A REFLECTION

I know I could easily say that the best thing about my internship with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation has been learning how to research and edit . . . but that’s not true. This summer has exposed me to the underbelly of porn. I've seen how porn harms not only women (through sexually exploiting them and often being a link to sex trafficking), but also men, children, marriages, and families. But not all hope is lost. The most rewarding aspect of my job has been knowing that there are people out there who are fighting against porn. The groups who are willing to come together to combat pornography is vast: liberal feminists to religious conservatives. This issue of porn knows no bounds and the people fighting it also come from various backgrounds. So that's the great thing: there is a growing movement to stop porn and sexual exploitation. I am not alone in my passion to help sexually abused women. There are thousands of wonderful women and men out there who are dedicating their lives to helping stop sexual exploitation. In sum, the most rewarding aspect has been seeing a network of people striving together to combat the ills of our society. I've always had hope that people care about others being exploited, but now that hope burns a bit brighter.

This summer experience has opened my eyes to see more evils but something else has also happened: I experienced firsthand the beauty that is a sex trafficking survivor. The best reason I can give for why people should fight against pornography and sex trafficking is in the form of a survivor. If you’ve ever seen a survivor speak candidly about their experience then you’ve seen incredible strength from that woman who has endured so much but come out fighting and alive. It’s beautiful to see how God can restore a woman’s life and make her stronger in the process. It’s an awful thing that trafficking (in any form) exists. But it’s a miracle that we have a God (and people) who are fighting for that trafficked individual.

8/23/16

CGJ Intern Update from Maitte Barrientos

This summer at the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts I’ve been able to assist in providing representation and resources to low-income children and youth in immigration, education, and child welfare matters. My experience at the CLCM has opened my eyes to the tremendous amount of immigrant children in need of mental health care and the barriers that they face in accessing mental health services. The mental health trajectories of immigrant and refugee children are diverse.  An estimated 92% of immigrant and refugees deemed in need of mental health services never receive them.  Needed treatment includes high rates of trauma, anxiety, depression, insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, PTSD, and adjustment disorder.

The immigration process involves separation from country of origin, family members, and familiar customs; exposure to a new physical environment; and navigation of unfamiliar cultural contexts. Stresses in the immigration experience can cause or exacerbate mental health difficulties.  These may have occurred in the child’s home country (such as substandard living conditions), abuse, neglect, poor physical health, community violence, or lack of support.  The high level of potential trauma before and during migration may lead to high levels of mental illness among migrant children and young adults. Common barriers to a child or young adult in obtaining adequate mental health services are distrust of authority, fear of stigma, language and cultural barriers, as well as primacy and prioritization of resettlement stressors.

Working with the CLCM I have been able to assist many children in more than just a legal capacity.  I have been able to assist them firsthand in obtaining health insurance, a therapist, safe home environment, and support from various educative community organizations.

Similarly, I have also participated in opportunities to educate the community in Lynn about their legal rights as undocumented immigrants in areas such as mental health access. As I previously mentioned in my last blog post, Lynn is a very poor community with a high number of Spanish speaking immigrants who lack access to adequate housing, food, and health access.  However, as part of the CLCM staff I feel blessed to be given the opportunity to assist these children and their families in all areas of their lives.  I have been given the opportunity not only to work as their legal advocates, but also as an educative voice in their community.

Working hand-in-hand with these children in the community has made me very grateful for the opportunity I have had to work for the CLCM.

It has been a constant reminder of why I aspired to become an attorney in the first place.  I am glad I work for an organization that goes above and beyond their ethical duties in order to facilitate the tough transition for minors coming from a different country.

This post was written by a Center for Global Justice student intern.  The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice. 

8/22/16

CGJ Intern Update from Chelsea Mack

I recently completed my three-month internship with HIAS.  The last month of my time with the organization was spent in their headquarters in Silver Spring, MD.  During my time in the office, I was assigned a couple of cases where I met with clients during several appointments in order to complete their I-589 applications and declarations for the immigration courts.  The I-589 application allows an individual to apply for asylum along with other benefits.  A declaration is a summary of the applicant’s life story that gives factual, mental, and emotional details of the individual’s background and the reasons why the individual does not want to return to his or her home country.

There is a particular application that can be submitted to the immigration court on behalf of juveniles that is identified as “Special Immigrant Juvenile Status” (SIJS).  The legal basis for a juvenile to qualify for SIJS is that the child must be abused, neglected, or abandoned by one parent.  SIJS cases are argued in state courts rather than federal courts such as other immigration cases.  Thus, state law is controlling authority.  This can prove to be a more challenging task for attorneys to find favorable controlling law if a state has not released an opinion on a case with similar fact patterns to the case that the attorney needs for their client.  Along with completing the I-589 applications and declarations for clients, I worked on developing a legal memo that provided a summary of Maryland case law that dealt with the three components (abuse, neglect, and abandonment) of a SIJS claim.

Additionally, I researched country conditions information to support cases for clients originating from Guatemala, Colombia, Cameroon, Sudan, and Serbia.  The research focused on various aspects of the countries and cultures including governmental structures, gender-based violence, law enforcement, religious persecution, and minority discrimination.  I thoroughly enjoyed the work that I was assigned because I was given the opportunity to interact with refugees, hear their stories, and complete reports and applications that will hopefully help them receive asylum in the United States.

Currently, there are many women and children fleeing Central America due to gang violence and gender-based violence.  Many of the potential clients I sat in intake interviews with fled from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala for these very reasons.  Each week the legal team at the headquarters meets to discuss which cases they will take based on the intake interviews conducted during the week.  They allowed me to sit in on these meetings to present some of the cases and to give input about whether the potential client’s story met the qualifications for a viable claim to accept them as a client.  Due to the requirements of the asylum and SIJS applications, we were not able to take on every individual’s case.  This reality was a bit difficult to grasp because many times the individual’s story was real and heartbreaking, but due to the legal requirements set by federal law, the story did not have the “right” set of facts in order to be a viable and successful claim.

I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to work with HIAS this summer.  The entire staff in the office is comprised of amazing individuals that truly desire to assist refugees in seeking safety for their families.  The legal team allowed me to jump right in and take control of cases while answering all questions that I had throughout the internship.  I feel blessed to be able meet individuals from countries around the world and learn more about the needs that still exist within the United States as well as abroad and the ways that I can help meet those needs using my legal skills.

This post was written by a Center for Global Justice student intern.  The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice. 

8/19/16

CGJ Intern Update from Josue Casanova

Hi! My name is Josue Casanova, and I am interning at the Jerusalem Institute of Justice (JIJ) in Jerusalem, Israel. JIJ is an organization that fights for human rights in Israel and the Middle East in general. So far I've been able to work on a project involving something I love: protecting children.

My project requires me to research how Hamas is allowing child labor in Gaza and otherwise using children for terrorism. Hamas is essentially an Islamic terrorist organization that took over Gaza and set itself up as the official government. Since Hamas has been in power, poverty in Gaza has skyrocketed, forcing underage children to work. Hamas has also been indoctrinating Gazan children to kill Jews and be suicide terrorists. Hamas indoctrinates Gazan children in a variety of ways, including through a Mickey Mouse-esque show where the kids talk about how disgusting Jews are, school plays where kids reenact the recent stabbing attacks against Israeli "security forces" and then "free Palestinian prisoners," and annual summer camps where they give teens guns and give them actual military training.

So how do you hold a terrorist organization responsible for child labor and terrorism? Here's where the loopholes come in. The people at JIJ realized that since Hamas has set itself up as the official government in Gaza, it doesn't just have all the benefits of being a government; it has all the obligations too. Hamas has to provide sanitation, public safety, transportation....and yes, take steps to eliminate child labor and educate children to be tolerant of other races and religions, just like every other government in the world. Think of it like the Genie in Aladdin: "Ultimate Cosmic Power, itty-bitty living space."

Through a couple other loopholes, Hamas could technically be bound by international law, so by not meeting these obligations it is breaking international law.

My job has been to read different United Nations Conventions, see which conventions would apply to this situation, and research what Hamas has been doing (or not doing) to see whether it has violated those conventions. Soon I am going to write a memo based on this research so JIJ is armed with this information and can access it quickly and easily when they need it.

This has been an amazing out of this world, totally unexpected experience.

Thanks for reading!
-Josue


This post was written by a Center for Global Justice student intern.  The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice. 

8/13/16

CGJ Student Intern Post #2 from Moriah Schmidt

I am currently in Kampala, Uganda, working as an intern in the Directorate of Public Prosecutions office headquarters.

Uganda is a country that has struggled with unrest in the past but currently has a generally stable government. While Uganda does share some similarities with laws in the United States, I have observed many differences between the two in the time that I’ve been here.

For instance, the police force works much differently than the police in the United States. With all the attention on the United States police force right now, it has been helpful to get a different perspective from a developing country’s standpoint. First, the government in Uganda has a police force but it is not able to adequately compensate the police for their level of work. Many times, the only way victims of crimes can see the perpetrator caught is if they pay the police themselves. Imagine that you are the victim of a robbery, rape, assault, or other crime and you go to the police for help. In order to get them to arrest the person, they insist on money for gas and their services. If you are like most Ugandans, who don’t have extra money lying around for little things like catching criminals, your chances of justice have just gone out the window.

I heard from a person who had to pay the police to arrest someone who had robbed him and even delivered the robber to the police, not just once, but four different times – and the person still got released from prison because of bribery, without a trial.

Corruption is prevalent in Uganda. Even if someone is guilty and caught, they may be released due to bribes that find their way into many courts and police stations. One of the root causes to this problem is that everyone is underpaid; prosecutors, police, even judges, can fall prey to the temptation to accept money from the accused or family of the accused.

Even when police officers are ready and willing to help catch a person and charge him or her with an offense, the problems do not stop there. The investigation process needs a lot of work, and most trials are conducted using mostly hearsay evidence from witnesses. This presents more problems because the witnesses have to be convinced to come to trial (for free) and then when they are able to get the witnesses there, the trial can be adjourned several times for various reasons, including the absence of a lawyer.

I take for granted the ability to call the police when something goes wrong and have them show up immediately. I expect them to arrest who they need to arrest without accepting money from me for their work. Although the police are not perfect, the U.S. is blessed to have them, and to have an adequate system to report the police to when corruption exists or an injustice occurs within the police force. That is something that many countries, including Uganda, do not have.
I was able to attend a conference on preventing and prosecuting torture directed towards prosecutors and lawyers, training them in how to respond to torture allegations. The most common perpetrators of torture methods are the police, and torture victims can range from criminals to innocent townspeople.

Of course the entire police force in Uganda is not corrupt, but it does have a bad reputation so that some people will not even report crimes to the police, because they see it as futile. Although the U.S. is not perfect in any way – there is always something we can be doing better – it does us well to take a step back and be thankful for what we do have, as well as learning from our mistakes and the mistakes of others. It has been a privilege to work in Uganda and learn more of their legal system. I know the work I am doing in law school can make a big difference in assisting countries like Uganda who are earnestly trying to better their legal system and effectively pursue justice.

This post was written by a Center for Global Justice student intern.  The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.