Two Rutgers Law School students will spend the summer in South America with nonprofit organizations working for LGBTI rights as part of a new internship program, created by Professor Jorge Contesse and sponsored by the Transnational Legal Initiative, in partnership with Rutgers’ Center for Gender,Sexuality, Law and Policy.
Christopher Bustamante Osorio ’18, who attends Rutgers Law in Camden, and Maria Jose Padilla ’17, who recently graduated from the law school’s Newark location, will be spending part of the summer in Santiago, Chile, and Bogotá, Colombia, respectively.
Osorio will be working with Fundación Iguales, a leading non-governmental organization that has lobbied for the adoption of anti-discrimination and civil union laws in Chile.
Padilla, who just graduated and hopes to become a civil rights attorney, will be working with Colombia Diversa, an organization involved in strategic litigation on LBGTI rights.
Professor Contesse said the students will work under the supervision of attorneys, doing legal research, drafting memos, and helping in the multiple projects being undertaken by their respective organizations.
“Latin America has been taking impressive steps in the global fight over LGBTI rights,” said Contesse, whose scholarship focuses on international human rights. “I believe that we need to provide our students with as many opportunities as possible to engage in transnational legal work.”
Rutgers Law’s Transnational Legal Initiative will provide students with stipends to cover transportation, housing and living expenses. The Initiative is supported by a seed grant from Rutgers University-Newark Chancellor, Nancy Cantor.
To take part in the internship, students must agree to spend at least four weeks at the organizations and, upon their return, submit a report on their experience.
Padilla said it is her passion and experience in defending the rights of the underserved and marginalized that made her want to do the internship.
Maria Jose Padilla will use her Spanish-speaking skills to assist clients.
“I am excited to be a part of an interdisciplinary team at Colombia Diversa and further develop my practical legal skills in an international context,” she said. “I also look forward to providing direct legal services at this organization and utilizing my native Spanish skills.”
While at Rutgers, Padilla interned at LatinoJustice, where she assisted undocumented clients with housing and employment issues. She also interned at Urban Justice Center, helping people with disabilities obtain public benefits, and spent two semesters working the International Human Rights Clinic as a Kinoy/Stavis Fellow.
Osorio, a Seattle native, is the vice president of the Women’s Law Caucus and has worked as a Spanish interpreter for the law school’s clinic program in Camden. He will be working with the law school’s Domestic Violence Clinic in the fall and said he wants to do public interest work.
Christopher Bustamante Osorio hopes to help LGBTQ people in South America.
“I want the experience of younger and new LGBTQ persons to be easier,” he said. “I am hoping that I will get to work on any policy work while I am there that will push to making the lives of the LGBTQ persons easier.”
Contesse expects the students to flourish in this summer opportunity, “Rutgers Law's commitment to social justice and publicly-engaged scholarship makes our students a perfect fit for this type of work. Our students work hard. Many of them come from immigrant families, and so being interested in, and exposed to, foreign legal cultures seems like a natural step to them. I hope they will see how international human rights work occurs on the ground as well as how important it is for a lawyer to be able to engage with other legal cultures.”