FALL 2016 Fellowship Opportunity

For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has been our nation’s guardian of liberty, working in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.  Whether it’s ending mass incarceration, achieving full equality for the LGBT community, establishing new privacy protections for our digital age, or preserving the right to vote or the right to have an abortion, the ACLU takes up the toughest civil liberties cases and issues to defend all people from government abuse and overreach.

With more than a million members, activists, and supporters, the ACLU is a nationwide organization that fights tirelessly in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C., for the principle that every individual’s rights must be protected equally under the law, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability or national origin.


The Border Litigation Project (BLP) is a joint project of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties and the ACLU of Arizona, with offices in San Diego, California and in Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona.  Using targeted impact litigation, advocacy and public outreach, the BLP carries on the ACLU’s commitment to protecting the rights and liberties of immigrants and communities of color along the border.  The BLP conducts impact litigation in federal courts with the goal of defending and expanding the rights of border residents, enforcing the guarantees of the Constitution, and achieving equal justice under the law.

Since 2006, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) budget has more than doubled, from $6 billion to $12.9 billion in 2014.  In the same time period, the U.S. Border Patrol—a sub-agency within CBP—has nearly doubled in size, from approximately 12,000 agents to over 21,000 agents today.  Since January 2010, more than forty individuals have died as a result of an encounter with CBP officials.   At least thirty-five of these deaths resulted from the use of lethal force, and at least sixteen of these victims were U.S. citizens.  According to the former head of CBP Internal Affairs, Border Patrol views itself as a “paramilitary border security force” that believes it is not beholden to “constitutional constraints” and rejects “outside scrutiny.”

The BLP has focused on challenging abuses arising from Border Patrol’s interior enforcement activities, including checkpoints and “roving patrols” far from any actual border.  The BLP has also targeted Border Patrol’s deplorable and inhumane detention facilities and agents’ routine use of excessive force against citizens and noncitizens alike.  The BLP also works to increase agency transparency through strategic Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation.  Our docket lies at the intersection of racial justice, police practices, and immigrants’ rights issues, and provides ample opportunities for a committed civil rights attorney to work toward greater government accountability and social justice.

BLP staff attorneys will work with the selected candidate to develop proposals for submission for external, sponsored fellowships (such as the Arthur Liman/Yale Public Interest Fellowship, Stanford Public Interest Fellowship, Berkeley Law Foundation, Equal Justice Works, Skadden, Soros Justice (Advocacy), or other public interest fellowships).  Ideal proposals will address human and civil rights issues in border communities and combine impact litigation and legal advocacy with public education and community-based legal fact-finding.  Proposals should not include direct services. Upon successfully securing fellowship funding, the BLP Fellow will work under the supervision of BLP staff attorneys, either in Phoenix, Arizona or San Diego, California.


  • J.D. or expected to receive a J.D. no later than Spring 2016.
  • A federal judicial clerkship is preferred, but not required.
  • Demonstrated ability to conduct complex legal analysis and fact-finding. Excellent research, writing, and verbal communication skills.  Attentive to detail.
  • Spanish language proficiency required (will be tested at time of interview).
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and a proven ability to work independently as well as within a team.
  • Self-motivated with the ability to take initiative, manage a variety of tasks, and see projects through to completion.
  • Demonstrated commitment to public interest law, civil liberties, immigrants’ rights, and racial and social justice.


The ACLU will work with the Fellow to secure compensation through fellowship funding and benefits package commensurate with experience and within parameters of our affiliate compensation scales.


To apply for sponsorship with the Border Litigation Project, please send an email to Judith Hansen, Legal Program Manager with the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties (jhansen@aclusandiego.org) with [Fall 2016 BLP Fellow] in your email subject line. Please submit the following: (1) a letter of interest detailing relevant past experience and describing potential project proposals; (2) a resume; (3) unofficial law school and undergraduate degree transcripts; (4) a legal writing sample unedited by others; and (5) the names, telephone numbers, and email addresses of at least two references for whom you have completed legal work.

DEADLINE: We encourage applicants to send materials as soon as possible, particularly in view of the early fall 2015 deadlines attached to certain sponsored fellowship programs.