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Having been a middle school teacher in El Salvador for two years, Kerry Keating knew the risks faced by human rights workers there. Nevertheless, Keating returned this summer — along with two other students from the University of San Francisco School of Law — as part of the first internship program in El Salvador through the USF law school’s Center for Law and Global Justice. “The whole purpose of me going to law school was to go back down there to work for human rights,” she says. Keating, along with fellow second-year student Geoffrey Hash and third-year Claudine Sakayan, traveled to San Salvador in early July to start work at the University of Central America’s Institute for Human Rights. Keating says the students spent half their time on immigration issues, and the remaining time helping Salvadorans whose family members died trying to leave the country. “We were looking for things that wouldn’t get them targeted,” says Judd Iversen, executive director of the Center for Law and Global Justice. Iversen added that the students worked on behalf of a Salvadoran man who fled to California, where he was later convicted of murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Although the man’s family knew his crime and knew his sentence, a number of uncertainties remained. “Even though they got a lot of court documents, they got them in English and didn’t understand what they meant,” Iversen says. The students looked into the case and ended up having to tell the relatives that the prisoner exchange they hoped for was impossible. Essentially, they told the family members they’d never see their loved one again unless they found a way to get to the prison where he is incarcerated in California. “In some ways,” Iversen says, “it’s better to know than to not know.” In other cases the students’ role was to make sure family members in El Salvador knew their relatives had received due process, and what their status was. The students also helped take care of the legal paperwork necessary to bring back the bodies of Salvadorans who died trying to leave the country. Bringing the bodies home, Keating says, helped the families find closure. “That was pretty grim but important work,” she says.

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