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FLAS fellow looks at comparative immigration law

Headshot of Michelle Browne, from the shoulders up. She is in front of a bookcase and wears a green top.

March 18, 2021

Michelle Browne, a first-generation American, has a deep commitment to immigrant communities and the laws that guide them.

As a first-generation American, I believe strongly in a fair and welcoming immigration system that recognizes the contribution immigrants make to their adopted countries. Immigrants grow our economies and infuse our communities with diversity and innovative ideas. However, those who see things differently have advanced programs and policies that significantly restrict immigration.

This dichotomy is precisely why I decided to pursue a law degree beginning in 2019. Now, as a second-year law student at the University of Washington’s School of Law, I am developing the skills to identify legal practices that violate international treaties and standards of conduct. These skills are greatly enhanced by my French-language fluency, which allows me to read primary sources and international publications in French.

As I’ve grown my understanding of comparative immigration law, I’ve collaborated with partners at the UW to raise awareness of pressing human rights issues occurring across our border. Under the direction of Haiyun Damon-Feng, affiliate instructor and assistant director of the W.H. Gates Public Service Law Program, I helped author a report that highlights stories of vulnerable migrants living in Mexico pursuant to Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols.

In addition to documenting unjustifiable violations of international law, the report promotes government accountability, expands public education and awareness, and provides a foundation for future advocacy on behalf of vulnerable migrants. I am acutely aware of the privilege I possess to be able to engage in substantive humanitarian immigration law and policy work as a student. My goal, as a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellow, has been to build awareness of pressing human rights issues that transcend borders. The support of the Canadian Studies Center has been integral to achieving this goal during my time at the UW.

As we near the end of the 2020-2021 academic year, I feel confident that my studies in comparative immigration law and French will add value to my career as a human rights defender and legal activist. I am excited to continue this work this summer as a legal fellow at the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies. Having engaged in substantive legal analysis and client advocacy already, I am eager to join CGRS’s effort to ensure that U.S. policies and practices align with international human rights norms.

Michelle Browne received a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship from the Canadian Studies Center to study French in 2020-21.

The Canadian Studies Center is a recipient of a U.S. Department of Education Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships program grant. The grant provides allocations of academic year and summer fellowships to assist meritorious graduate students undergoing training in modern foreign languages and Canadian Studies. The Canadian Studies Center is extremely proud in having awarded several Fellowships in least-commonly taught Canadian Aboriginal languages including Inuktitut, Dane-zaa, Musqueam Salish, and Anishinaabemowin.