Joseph Berra

Human Rights in the Americas Project Director

  • B.A. St. Louis University, 1981
  • M.Div. Universidad Centroamericana, 1990
  • M.A. University of Texas at Austin, 1994
  • J.D. St. Mary’s University School of Law, 1997

Joseph Berra is Human Rights in the Americas Project Director with the Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA School of Law. His teaching and research interests include immigrant rights, international human rights, and the rights of Indigenous and Afrodescendent peoples in Central America. Berra coordinates projects with organizational partners in the U.S. and Latin America to engage students in human rights advocacy and the Inter-American system for human rights.  Current projects include collaboration with Indigenous organizations resisting extractivist industries in their territories, litigation at the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, and research on the human rights challenges faced by Indigenous migrants in the U.S. detention and immigration systems. 

Before coming to UCLA, Berra was a successful civil and human rights litigator with both the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the Texas Civil Rights Project.  He is the past Executive Director of the Caribbean Central American Research Council, an inter-disciplinary activist research organization, and currently serves on the CCARC Board.  He co-authored two studies with CCARC in 2002 and 2007 to support the territorial claims of Indigenous and Afrodescendent communities in Honduras. A former Jesuit, Berra spent many years living and working in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America before earning his law degree.  

In addition to his role with the Promise Institute, Berra serves the Vice-Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as Special Projects Director for Programming in coordination with the Special Advisors to the Chancellor for Immigration and Native American and Indigenous Affairs. 

Berra holds a J.D. from St. Mary’s University School of Law; an M.A. in Social Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin; an M.Div. from the Universidad Centroamericana in San Salvador, El Salvador; and a B.A. in Philosophy from St. Louis University.

Read "Tremors Along the Fault Line: A Critical Perspective on Covid-19 and the Right to Health in the United States," a chapter written by Mara González Souto, Grace Carson and Joseph Berra in El derecho a la salud en Estados Unidos, México, Centroamérica y Panamá en el contexto del COVID-19 (Joaquín A. Mejía Rivera, editor).