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News Release

For immediate use:

Nov. 15, 2007

UNC School of Law students help file petition on behalf of abused domestic workers

Law students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, along with the representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union and Global Rights, filed a petition today with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of six women and three organizations that provide services to domestic workers employed by diplomats. The students are part of the Immigration/Human Rights Clinic of the UNC School of Law.

Congress is considering legislation that will ensure greater protections for domestic workers who come to the United States on special visas to work for diplomats in the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.  However, U.S. law currently denies workers their rights and a way to seek justice.

The petition charges that the United States has violated the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man by failing to ensure that foreign officials with diplomatic immunity are prohibited from committing egregious human rights abuses. The petition also calls on the United States to adopt a system to protect and compensate domestic workers abused by diplomats.

“We have come too far in the history of this country to allow the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting slavery to become simply an empty, unenforceable promise,” said Deborah Weissman, director of clinical programs and Reef C. Ivey II distinguished professor of law at the UNC School of Law. “Until the United States takes steps to ensure that domestic workers can enforce their rights against their diplomat employers, these individuals will continue to be obliged to leave their fundamental rights and freedoms behind on the doorsteps of diplomats’ homes.”

Weissman and clinic students Sireesha Manne, Daniel MacGuire and Lauren Joyner worked on the petition with others at the ACLU.  The women they filed the petition on behalf of are from Bangladesh, Bolivia, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Paraguay and Chile. Their employers were diplomats from Bangladesh, Bolivia, Botswana, Qatar, Argentina and Chile, respectively.

Related link: www.aclu.org/domesticworkers

School of Law contacts: Matt Marvin, director of communications, (919) 962-4125 or mmarvin@email.unc.edu; or Deborah Weissman, clinic programs director, (919) 962-3564 or weissman@email.unc.edu.
News Services contact: Susan Houston, (919) 962-8415 or susan_houston@unc.edu.