Cody McKinney, a Clinton School student pursuing a concurrent law degree through the UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law, recently completed an internship with Human Rights Initiative of North Texas (HRI) as part of his International Public Service Project.
Founded nearly two decades ago, HRI provides free legal services, community referrals, job search assistance, advocacy, and guidance on obtaining documents and accessing benefits programs to people who have suffered human rights abuses.
“I was drawn to the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas (HRI) because of its commitment to those escaping abusive environments and searching for a better life here in the United States,” McKinney said.
McKinney worked with the HRI’s Children’s Program, which assists unaccompanied children trying to get to the United States for safety. The children, who can be as young as 3 years old, have suffered abuse, abandonment, or neglect by one or both parents, meaning it is typically not safe for them to return to their home country.
McKinney, whose service work included time as a firefighter and EMT for 10 years before enrolling at the Clinton School, prepared applications for various forms of immigration relief, assisted in client interviews, drafted and reviewed supporting affidavits, and assisted HRI in a variety of legal research. He said he was drawn to HRI’s straightforward approach to its work.
“When I learned that I could no longer leave the country for my IPSP, I wanted to find a way to lend my knowledge and skills to work for those most negatively affected by the immigration setbacks,” McKinney said.
Working remotely from Dallas, McKinney worked closely with Anna Rupani, Director of the HRI Children’s Program.
“Every week, in addition to my work drafting legal documents, I participated in Zoom staff meetings, had a check-in meeting with Anna, and assisted with client intakes and follow-up interviews,” McKinney said. “Intakes required the assistance of interpreters and clients ranged in age from preschool-aged to young adulthood.”
McKinney developed a portfolio of deliverables for his final assignment. His deliverables largely fell into three categories: flowcharts, which he created to allow clients an easier understanding of the Asylum and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status processes; research memorandums, which he wrote at the request of staff attorneys to answer specific legal questions; and formal legal documents in support of client cases for submission to the courts.
A native of Nags Head, N.C., McKinney was able to bring much of his first-year Clinton School lessons into the internship.
“Many of the skills I learned in Communications and Social (Ex)Change were useful in trauma-informed communication while interacting with clients and while drafting legal documents on their behalf,” McKinney said. "The Theory and Practice of Global Development also prepared me in a big way for my work with HRI. Specifically, in TPGD we read Jacqueline Bhabha's ‘Can We Solve the Migration Crisis,’ which gave me a great perspective of the current state of global migration.”
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