The Human Trafficking Clinic + Lab is a social justice innovation space where multidisciplinary student teams use design thinking to research, incubate, and build replicable, scalable, and disruptive solutions to reduce vulnerability to trafficking. Graduate students from across UM will work to fight exploitation at individual, organizational, and systemic levels. For over a decade, the Clinic relied solely on legal tools and direct representation to fight human trafficking. The Lab, launched in 2022, allows us to build on direct representation to change exploitative systems. It endeavors to create change at policy, service, and industry levels through collaborative partnerships across the nonprofit, corporate, and governmental sectors. We believe the law is an incomplete, imperfect solution to reducing exploitation and that interdisciplinary, cross-industry collaboration is necessary. Our vision for the Clinic + Lab partnership is that the work with individual survivors in the Clinic will help ensure the Lab is victim-centered and informed by lived-experience.
The Clinic + Lab provides a range of services, including direct representation of both U.S. citizen and foreign national trafficking victims, corporate governance compliance and advising, and grand-scale problem-solving design work centered around reducing vulnerability to trafficking. Students will collaborate with a variety of stakeholders, including survivors of human trafficking, law enforcement, government officials, corporations, and nongovernmental organizations to identify solutions to combat vulnerability to trafficking.
All law students will be enrolled in the Clinic + Lab and will engage in a combination of legal and systemic reform work. The legal work of the Clinic + Lab will be a mix of direct representation and corporate compliance and governance. Our direct service work is best described as a poverty law practice on behalf of survivors of human trafficking and their families. It includes immigration, post-adjudication criminal relief, access to public benefits, expungement, and victim-witness advocacy. Other legal work will include how companies are assessing, preventing, and remediating the use of forced labor in their supply chains, as well as how outside groups are pressuring them to do so if they are not.
In the systems-level problem-solving and reform work of the Clinic + Lab, law students will be joined by graduate students from multiple disciplines to identify and create solutions to reduce vulnerability to exploitation. Such projects may include increasing access to expungement, combating misinformation in anti-trafficking narratives, and exploring the role of discretion in the legal process. Our focus for Fall 2023 will be reducing vulnerability to trafficking in supply chains. In November 2022, the U.S. government found that over half of the sugar produced in the Dominican Republic resulted from forced labor. Actions to address this exploitation must be taken. The Lab, along with a coalition of NGOs, is working to respond to these findings to create long-term worker-led oversight of this supply chain to reduce labor trafficking.
In the Fall 2022-Winter 2023 year, more than 50 students from 11 of UM's graduate programs joined the Lab in our fight against vulnerability to human trafficking.
This work is not done in a vacuum. The Lab is committed to connecting and engaging with stakeholders in a supportive, non-extractive, and sustainable manner that neither taxes nor burdens their resources. Our projects are not limited by the semester framework, as we pass them from student team to student team until they reach actualization and implementation. Therefore, our stakeholders can trust that their contributions and partnerships will not fall by the wayside when the semester ends.
In the Clinic + Lab students will learn and practice collaboration, problem solving, fact investigation, legal analysis, counseling, and advocacy skills. Students are responsible, under supervision, for all of the cases and projects within the Clinic + Lab.
The Clinic + Lab is a 7 credit course and meets the New York Pro-Bono requirement. Students must enroll in the 4 credit Clinic + Lab and the 3 credit seminar, taken concurrently.