Blog: Clara Long

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August 20, 2014

HRP Alumni in the News

Posted by Cara Solomon

We use all kinds of strategies here at the International Human Rights Clinic to push for change. Litigation. Treaty negotiation. Documentation and reporting.

As Communications Coordinator, I’ve always been partial to advocacy. Media advocacy, to be more precise. This summer, our alumni are putting it to great use in outlets all over the world.

On Monday, The Huffington Post ran a column by Nicolette Boehland, JD ’13, a Satter fellow with the Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), documenting the devastating toll the conflict in Gaza is taking on civilians. For the column, Nicolette spoke by phone with Gazans she met last year while researching civilian perspectives on involvement, status, and risk in armed conflict, including in Libya, Bosnia, and Somalia.

In “No Safe Place in Gaza,” she writes:

A young woman described the crippling fear she had experienced over the last four weeks: “The worst of all is the night time,” she said. “There is no power, no electricity, and there are tens of drones in the sky. Whenever you hear a rocket, you think it’s targeting your house. You are running from one room to another. I know this is silly — if your house is hit, it won’t matter which room you were in.”

Each night, her family of six gathered on mattresses that they had pulled together in the middle of the living room, “far away from the windows, so that they don’t break,” she said. This way, if their house was hit, the whole family would be killed together. “We don’t want one of the family to survive and then have to grieve for the rest of us,” she said.

At the end of the column, Nicolette lists several strategies the Israeli government and Hamas could use to limit civilian suffering.

Closer to home, as police in combat gear clashed last week with protesters in Ferguson, MO, Sara Zampierin, JD ’11, a staff attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, was quoted in a New Yorker article, “The Economics of Police Militarization.” The article attributed some of the tension in Ferguson to the underlying problem of “criminal justice debt,” which can often pit law enforcement against residents.

Now, across much of America, what starts as a simple speeding ticket can, if you’re too poor to pay, mushroom into an insurmountable debt, padded by probation fees and, if you don’t appear in court, by warrant fees…What happens when people fall behind on their payments? Often, police show up at their doorsteps and take them to jail.

From there, the snowball rolls. “Going to jail has huge impacts on people at the edge of poverty,” Sara Zampierin, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, told me. “They lose their job, they lose custody of their kids, they get behind on their home-foreclosure payments,” the sum total of which, she said, is “devastating.” While in prison, “user fees” often accumulate, so that, even after you leave, you’re not quite free.

And earlier this summer, Clara Long, JD ’12, an immigration and border policy researcher with Human Rights Watch, waded into the heated debate over the surge of migration at the southeastern US border. In an Op-Ed she co-authored for The Guardian, Clara railed against the Obama administration’s plans to open more family detention centers. The headline read: “Obama pledged to limit the practice of detaining minors. What happened?”

It appears that the White House has come to view being “thoughtful and humane” as a political liability. The new move to ramp up family detention comes in response to criticism that the administration’s lax immigration enforcement “created a powerful incentive for children to cross into the United States illegally”, as Senator John Cornyn of Texas put it last week.

Obama’s move is all the more disappointing because effective alternatives to detention exist and are used in countries facing similar migration surges. Countries like Italy and Malta, prime entrances for migrants to the EU, have open reception facilities where migrant and asylum-seeking families can come and go at will – and Malta pledged to end immigration detention of children altogether in 2014. Though neither country has a spotless record – Italy summarily returns to Greece some unaccompanied migrant children and Malta sometimes detains unaccompanied migrant kids while authorities try to figure out their ages – their examples show that detaining kids with families is a choice, not a necessity.

Clara wrote another column for The Guardian on border removals in April.

In response to this flurry of activity, we at HRP have just two things to say: Thank you. And well done.

May 30, 2012

Daring to Be a Doer: Profile of Clara Long, JD ’12

Posted by Corydon Ireland, Harvard News

Note: A shorter version of this profile appeared in the May 24, 2012 issue of the Harvard Gazette

Clad in black, with her mortarboard jaunty, Clara J. K. Long received a J.D. from Harvard Law School on May 24. She was one of hundreds that day – but surely the only one who had lived in a Brazilian landfill.

Clara Long, a longtime member of the Clinic, plans to pursue a career in human rights advocacy. Photo Credit: Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Back then, Long was a Brown University undergraduate helping to organize city trash pickers. She lived on sliding mounds of trash, with noisy birds wheeling overhead, for just one month. But the experience is an emblem of the eccentric verve with which Long has so far lived her young life. As a teenager she jumped on a plane to tour Russia, roamed through Central America with just a backpack and bravery for company, hiked 500 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, and one summer – still a biology major then – grew cancer cells in a New York City laboratory.

In her 20s, she worked alongside peasant socialists in Brazil, summered as a grant writer in Tanzania, taught filmmaking in Burundi, interviewed residents of the U.S.-Mexican border as a young journalist, helped with an anti-debt slavery campaign in the Brazilian Amazon, worked as a “fixer” – advance person and translator – for American journalists in Venezuela, and as a law student did grinding rounds of legal work in American and South American prisons. This was before and after graduating from Brown University in 2004, and earning a master’s degree from the London School of Economics (2005) and another (in journalism) from Stanford University (2007). As part of the journey, Long mastered three new languages – French, Spanish, and Portuguese. (Today she is studying Swahili, whose grammar she calls “a gift.”)

During these years, alongside a passion for adventure, Long embraced an equal and motivating passion for justice and human rights. In all, the life this 32-year-old has lived so far was summed up nicely years ago by Paul Tillich, the Protestant theologian: “In every act of justice,” he said, “daring is necessary and risk is unavoidable.”

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April 3, 2012

Belated Thanks

Posted by Cara Solomon

A big and belated thanks goes out to the 3Ls and 2L who showed up at the Clinical Fair last Wednesday to help us introduce the International Human Rights Clinic to prospective students.  We were lucky enough to have a steady stream of 1Ls at our table, and our students engaged them all, offering insight into the clinical experience, and advice on how to get the most out of it.

A special thanks goes to Russell Kornblith, JD ’12, who kept up his enthusiasm through two straight hours of talking.  We’re also grateful to Yonina Alexander, JD ’12, Christina Chinloy, JD ’12, Poppy Alexander, JD ’12, Daniel Saver, JD ’12, Clara Long, JD ’12, and James Tager, JD ’13.

We appreciate all you did that night, and all you continue to do to strengthen and improve the Clinic.  Pics of yourselves (and two of our clinicians) below!

Christina Chinloy, JD ’12, talks to a student about her clinical experience, working on projects in Panama and Brazil, among others.

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