The District of Columbia School of Law Foundation has announced the establishment of The Carolyn Waller ’77 Fund for Immigration & Human Rights (Waller Fund). Each year, the Foundation will award a scholarship to one UDC Law student who has demonstrated an interest in immigration law and human rights work through participation in the Immigration and Human Rights Clinic or Pathway program.
The fund was established following the death of immigration law pioneer and Antioch School of Law graduate Carolyn Waller in November 2020. Managing Attorney for the UDC Law Clinical Program Heather Molina said, “This scholarship will benefit recipients to pursue academic excellence and to encourage continued interest in opportunities in the areas of immigration law and human rights.”
Out of a commitment to providing immigration legal services without excessive fees, Waller helped establish the Center for Immigration Law and Practice (CILP), a clinic housed at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, in honor of Reverend James Augustine Healy. Healy, the first Black Catholic bishop in the United States, worked on immigration in Haiti and the U.S. CILP eventually evolved into the Immigration and Human Rights Clinic available to students at UDC Law today.
Waller graduated from Antioch School of Law in 1977, practiced for more than two decades and taught as an adjunct professor at UDC Law for several years. After Antioch closed in 1986 and became the District of Columbia School of Law, Waller was instrumental in the school’s transition to the University of the District of Columbia.
Waller dedicated her life to improving immigration legal services, including working on important cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Waller’s specialty was asylum law, and she wrote the first asylum training manual for the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs. Also with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, Waller headed the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project from 1982 to 1990. The project, a first-of-its-kind in D.C., used the services of Spanish-speaking staff members to assist new immigrants with their legal needs. She worked with Maurice Roberts – known colloquially as the “dean of immigration law” – as an editor for Interpreter Releases, a well-known immigration journal published weekly through 1997.
She received several awards for her work, including the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Nonprofit Lawyer of the Year in 1989, District of Columbia Bar Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year in 1991 and the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law Equal Justice Award in 2001. Recognition was not her ambition, however; according to The Washington Post obituary, “She had an indomitable energy and while she changed many lives for the better, she rarely spoke of her accomplishments.”
The accomplishments of which Waller was reluctant to speak did not stop with immigration law. She worked for fair elections in the U.S. and abroad, including in Haiti and Ethiopia, and she served as poll worker and election observer in Philadelphia. Waller also helped establish a daycare with the American Association of University Women; the daycare opened in 1970 and is still in operation.
The inaugural Waller Fund recipient will be chosen in Fall 2021.