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UMD law students travel to Haiti on fact-finding trip

August 23, 2013

Note: This is an excerpt from a piece written by Irene Scharf, director of UMass Law's Immigration Law Clinic, and Justin Steele, executive articles editor of the UMass Law Review. The piece was featured in the Standard Times; find a link to the full text article below.

The mission of UMass School of Law, the only public law school in Massachusetts, is to create "justice centered lawyers." It was therefore no surprise that many students jumped at the chance to witness the treatment of Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic during the 2013 Spring Break. The trip meant relinquishing a week of relaxation, something precious to law students, and traveling to a poor country where most of us had never been. But guiding us the whole way were the Director of the UMass Immigration Law Clinic, "Doña" Irene Scharf; and Fred Rooney, a Fulbright Scholar and now director of the International Justice Center for Post-Graduate Development at Touro Law Center in New York.

The trip began with a flight that arrived at the Santo Domingo airport at 3 a.m., followed by an 8-hour van ride to the seaside town of Pedernales. We spent a few days there learning about the problems plaguing Haitians in the Dominican Republic. One of the most striking events was visiting a prison filled with Haitian immigrants. It was cramped, dark, and hot. There was no running water, no functioning bathroom facilities, no right to food or water, and no right to communicate with the outside world. More

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