Neda Sargordan ('07) came to Chapman knowing she wanted to practice immigration and human rights law on behalf of victims of persecution, human trafficking and abuse. Neda's law school experience was heightened in the fall of 2006, when Professor Marisa Cianciarulo - a clinical specialist in these areas - joined the law school faculty. After enrolling in Professor Cianciarulo's Gender & the Law course, Neda became her research assistant, supporting the popular professor's research on immigration and asylum law issues. Upon graduation, Neda received a fellowship through Equal Justice Works and took a position at the Public Law Center in Santa Ana, where she worked on behalf of the vulnerable and undocumented community in Orange County.
In 2010, the Department of Justice awarded a sizable grant to Chapman's Family Protection Clinic to address human trafficking issues. As Director of the clinic, Professor Cianciarulo was asked to select a staff attorney to handle this important work. Having seen her passionate work in the area of public interest law, Professor Cianciarulo selected Neda for the position.
As staff attorney, Neda provides direct representation to immigrant victims of crime who qualify for legal status in the United States. In particular, she represents victims of labor and sex trafficking, persecution, domestic violence, and other serious crimes. In addition to maintaining a caseload, Neda assists Professor Cianciarulo in supervising five second and third year law students enrolled in the Advanced Family Protection Clinic.
In spring 2011, with the support of students Nadia Kuraishi, Aron Movroydis and Brett Murdock, Neda represented five farm workers from Thailand who were victims in what the Department of Justice called "the largest human trafficking scheme investigated by the federal government." According to the federal indictment, the defendants, owners and representatives of Global Horizons Manpower, engaged in a scheme that compelled the labor of 400-600 impoverished farm workers from rural provinces in Thailand. The operation was uncovered after a few farm workers escaped from a coffee farm in Hawaii. To date, hundreds of Thai workers have come forward and identified themselves as victims. With the help of public interest attorneys and community organizations, these men have filed complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and petitioned the United States government for immigration relief.
According to CIA estimates, as many as 15,000–17,000 men, women and children are trafficked into the United States each year and subjected to sexual exploitation and labor. Human trafficking is a criminal enterprise, tied with arms trafficking and second to drug trafficking. Recognizing the growing epidemic of international human trafficking, Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in 2000. The TVPA offers a form of immigration relief, the T visa, for undocumented trafficking victims who fear return to their home countries. The T visa provides victims and their immediate family members the prospect of rebuilding a better, free life in the United States.
With the assistance of committed professionals such as Neda and Professor Cianciarulo, Chapman has helped to address this important and often overlooked problem.
Update on 03/25/13:
In 2012, Neda left Chapman to join Citizenship & Immigration Services, where she will be dealing directly with immigrants fleeing violence and persecution.