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What came first, the law or the right?

10:39 AM  Apr 6th, 2017
by Erin Frey ’18

Professor Camilo Pérez-Bustillo began class by asking his law students, “What does the world look like?” His students looked around blankly, so Pérez-Bustillo countered with another question, “Where do we (the United States) fit in terms of human rights?”

The answer he gave left a blanket of silence — possibly awe — over the room.

“The U.S. has been leading the global retreat of human rights since 9/11.”

The International Human Rights Law class is new this year and is co-taught by Pérez-Bustillo, executive director of the Human Rights Center and research professor of human rights and law, and Adam Todd, associate professor in the UD School of Law. The course challenges law students to analyze current laws to determine if they are in violation of human rights.

“The students studying human rights in this class will be the next generation of lawyers doing similar actions on behalf of peoples’ rights on the front lines of preserving liberty in this and other countries across the globe,” Todd said.

Pérez-Bustillo refers to the current immigration situation in Europe as, “the second biggest humanitarian crisis in terms of displaced migrants since the second World War.”

“Thousands of people have died in the desert or Mediterranean trying to get to Europe,” he continued. “One person has died every day on their way to the U.S. for the past 20 years.”

Recently, the class discussed these facts in light of the several executive orders put in place by Pres. Donald Trump since he took office.

Anita S. Teekah, a lawyer and human rights activist in New York City, started a discussion around analyzing the executive orders regarding security at our Mexican borders and the ban of entry into the country for immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Teekah asked, “Is immigration control within the executive branch or under presidential control?”

Her question led to an engaging discussion between students who are writing semester-long papers on immigration law and the travel ban executive order as they relate to human rights.

A student in the class, Emily Feliz, expressed her opinion while questioning the timing of the orders.

“Yes, immigration control is within the president’s jurisdiction, but there are discrepancies in how the orders were handled, errors in reporting and there was no consultation with the department of state which led to confusion on the ground,” she said.

The class will be offered again next fall to allow law students the opportunity to analyze the laws they will one day be upholding.


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