New Year, Renewed Hope

In ancient Roman religion and myth, the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, frames, and ending is known as Janus. Janus is typically depicted as having two faces, looking to the future and to the past.  

Janus, or what Janus represents, is no doubt on the minds of many as we close out one year and begin another. As we reflect on the past – 2020 – we are hopeful for the future – 2021.  

In the midst of the global pandemic, The Advocates changed systems and conditions that cause human rights abuses. We improved laws and lives around the world. We represented individual survivors of human rights violations. A family gaining asylum after years of fearing persecution and violence in their home country is worthy of celebration. An HIV positive asylum seeker released from ICE detention is a step in a better direction. Influencing public policy on labor trafficking is no small feat. Protecting women from domestic violence during a lockdown is essential. The murder of George Floyd provided a clarion call to confront and dismantle racism. 

With an eye on 2021, we share with you a look at the past. Following are twenty-one notable highlights at The Advocatess in 2020, captured in blogs, interviews, op-eds, reports, training events, trivia challenges, videos and more: 

  1. #HumanRightsFromHome: in the spring we made a quick pivot from scheduled in-person events to safe learning and fundraising events. Tune into our initial foray of digital engagement at our spring Virtual House Party
  1. Trafficking Impact: after years of persistent advocacy, The Advocates closed a multi-victim labor trafficking case after securing 34 T-visas and reuniting an additional 76 family members in the United States. We documented stories of over 100 youth victims of labor trafficking and helped many receive legal services. Learn more about the disturbing beginnings of a large group of Dominican farmworkers who survived human trafficking on a farm in central Minnesota.  
  1. Volunteer Shout-out: with over 1300 volunteers contributing to the work of The Advocates in 2020, supporters joined our re-imagined Human Rights Awards Dinner 2020 in June from their decks, kitchens, and living rooms and got inspired by  keynote speaker Lee Gelernt,  Deputy Director, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project while virtually celebrating the work of volunteers and partners around the globe. 
  1. Welcome to Chechnya: in collaboration with trusted partners, The Advocates co-sponsored early access to the highly anticipated HBO documentary Welcome to Chechnya, and engaged viewers in an insightful film discussion with director David France and staff of the Moscow Community Center for LGBT+ Initiatives (MCC). 
  1. Victory!: Year after year, hundreds of pro bono attorneys work in concert with The Advocates and their clients seeking asylum. Despite administration hurdles and pandemic challenges, we achieved multiple victories with asylum seeking clients in 2020. Get a glimpse here and here
  1. Boost Your Human Rights IQ: this past summer the human rights curious boosted their human rights IQ on Trivia Tuesdays and 12 Days of Advocacy, a thematic nod to the (pandemic cancelled) Minnesota State Fair – an event The Advocates has long participated-in where we share human rights advocacy with thousands in our hometown. 
  1. Stop Violence Against Women: The Advocates took a deep-dive into COVID’s impact on domestic violence in countries around the world. In the fall, we honored several court monitor volunteers with Gold WATCH Awards who shared insights on their court monitoring experience
  1. Refugees and Immigrants: from coronavirus to the administration’s attack on asylum, Sarah Brenes, Director of the Refugee and Immigrant program at The Advocates can be found sharing refugee and immigrant issue insights on Café Libre and Immigration Nation panel discussions. 
  1. Released from ICE Detention: as a result of this KSTP news story, a determined legal team and a client’s willingness to tell his story – we celebrated the release of a client from ICE detention.  
  1.  #SaveAsylum: asylum has been under attack and The Advocates is fighting back. We commented on numerous regulations in 2020. You can comment, too. See our model comments to get started.  
  1.  Raising the Bar in Report Submissions: committed to the impartial promotion and protection of international human rights standards and the rule of law, The Advocates participates in the work of international human rights monitoring by providing written and oral submissions to the UN Human Rights Council and other UN and regional human rights mechanisms. The research and findings in these reports serve to inform human rights monitoring bodies about human rights violations happening on the ground in countries around the world. In 2020, The Advocates’ submitted over 52 reports in defense of human rights. 
  1. Extrajudicial Executions: in the wake of George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police, The Advocates published an ever-growing blog series on criminal justice and demanding accountability and expanded our work on anti-racism and human rights
  1. Protecting Human Rights in Times of Protest: when the administration flexed its paramilitary muscle at protests in Portland this summer, The Advocates weighed-in. We also engaged hundreds in training on human rights in the United States in preparation for the 36th Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in October. Topics included: asylum, human trafficking and labor rights and police accountability.  
  1. Preparing for the 36th Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Session: Learn firsthand how The Advocates provided Human Rights Council delegates with information to prepare their intervention for the UPR interactive dialogue. 
  1. “Live from Geneva!”: Although COVID and travel restrictions prohibited us from being present at the 36th Session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations in Geneva this year, watch how The Advocates re-imaged and reinforced our UPR impact and read and watch how the US took center stage at the UN.  
  1. Post-conflict Accountability in LiberiaWatch The Advocates provide updated information on the current situation in Liberia to assist delegates in the Human Rights Council in preparing their interventions for the UPR dialogue in November 2020. 
  1. Weighing-in on Systemic Violence and Police Accountabilityread The Advocates’ written statement to the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent and watch Lisa Borden, staff attorney at The Advocates, present our statement to the very same group. 
  1. World Day Against the Death Penalty: in recognition of this internationally-celebrated day, Amy Bergquist, senior staff attorney at The Advocates and Vice-President for the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty and Lisa Borden, staff attorney at The Advocates shared comprehensive learnings on legal representationbuilding capacity and access to counsel
  1. Human Rights Day: In collaboration with the City Minneapolis, the City of St. Paul and the United Nations Minnesota Chapter, The Advocates participated in the important discussion of human rights challenges at the local level – in our communities. 
  1. I Vote For Hope: our newsletter, the  Human Rights Observer, has much to share about our work over the past year, but if you’re seeking a quick glimpse, be sure to check out Sarah Brenes’ “I Vote for Hope”.   
  1. Bearing Witness: an opportunity to invite the public into the deportation infrastructure, The Advocates’ Immigration Court Observation Report draws on and documents the international human rights practice of trial monitoring to identify and bring visibility to systemic human rights violations arising in the context of civil immigration enforcement.  

The past informs the future. In a complicated, unprecedented year, together we defended our bodies from a silent attacker and defended our communities from loud, abusive ones. We are hopeful for a new year and a new administration and remain committed to our vision: a world in which every person lives with dignity, freedom, justice, equality, and peace. 

Thank you to all the support of our volunteers, donors, partners, clients, friends, followers, and human rights defenders around the world. We wish you peace and health in the New Year. 


Curious about volunteering? Please reach out. The Advocates for Human Rights has an opportunity for you.  

Eager to see change? Give to our mission, our vision, our work. Your gift matters.  

Please comment to join our community of human rights advocates. The Advocates for Human Rights produces this blog in a spirit of thoughtful communication. Comments are open, but are moderated.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s