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Rebecca Thornton

2001, Equal Justice Works Fellowships, Rebecca Thornton

Rebecca Thornton

Name of Host Organization: Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights
City, State: New York, NY
Issue area: Civil Rights/Civil Liberties
Sponsors: Cravath, Swaine & Moore

The Project

Rebecca Thornton worked on a special initiative of the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights in New York. This new initiative, formed in response to the tragic events of 9/11, was focused on the indefinite detention by the United States of non-US citizens and the government’s move toward using the immigration enforcement system as a surrogate for the criminal justice system.

Rebecca’s work focused on the impact of new laws and regulations, made in the name of national security, upon non-citizens and immigrants. Members of racial, ethnic and other minorities or vulnerable groups often face harassment, arbitrary detention, abusive treatment by law enforcement and disparate treatment by prosecutors and the courts. In the aftermath of the attacks of 9/11, non-citizens and immigrants, primarily from Arab, South Asian and Muslim communities, have been singled out for even greater scrutiny by law enforcement as the government investigates who might be responsible for these atrocities. The exercise of these new powers has raised serious concerns about fairness and due process.

While she was a law student at the University of San Francisco (USF), Rebecca interned at the Lawyers Committee. There, she researched the problem of racial profiling in domestic police practices. She continued to work on Fourth Amendment and police related issues during a subsequent internship at the ACLU of Northern California. Through USF’s clinical program, Rebecca represented a non-governmental organization at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva. She brought these experiences to her work and enjoyed the opportunity to work on this project, especially at such a critical time in our nation’s history.