The Crossroads of Advocacy, Law, and Policy

Kudrat Dutta Chaudhary F19 fights for women and immigrants’ rights in San Francisco
A headshot of Kudrat Dutta Chaudhary standing in front of a building.

Kudrat Dutta Chaudhary F19 thinks about the law in dynamic ways. For four years, she has been involved with Women’s March San Francisco and served as its co-chair for two years. She was the first South Asian to be appointed to the city’s Immigrant Rights Commission in 2022, of which she now serves as the vice-chair. At 21, she published her debut novel on the trafficking of women from Nepal to India following the 2015 Nepal earthquake. 

For Chaudhary, these various experiences coalesce around supporting immigrants’ and women’s rights. After earning her LLM from Fletcher, Chaudhary moved to San Francisco where she worked as a gender rights specialist at a law firm. In this role, she interviewed applicants from Central America, Latin America, and Southeast Asia seeking gender-based asylum in the United States to prepare their immigration documents and assisted in developing legal strategies for their cases. 

Now, she draws upon her practical experiences in the legal field in her dual roles as commissioner of the Immigrant Rights Commission and as a researcher at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). At CGRS, she continues to support asylum seekers by working on country specific toolkits and researchFor Chaudhary, the development of her career embodies the kind of work she had always hoped to undertake. 

Developing an Intersectional Lens on the Law

Both the multidisciplinary nature of her career and the numerous roles in which she has served have informed the way Chaudhary views issues surrounding women’s rights and immigration. 

“The more you continue to do this work, the more your lens becomes intersectional,” said Chaudhary. “If you change one thing about somebody's identity, their entire experience changes. If there are two South Asian women and only one was able to finish college or is comfortable speaking English, that changes their experience navigating the legal system and accessing resources in the city.”

Chaudhary has also supported numerous people following a recent wave of H-1B layoffs. As someone from India who's working in the U.S. under an O-1A visa for extraordinary ability, Chaudhary has found that fighting for Chinese and Indian nationals, who have been laid off while on H-1B visas, provides her with a way to give back to her community. 

“A lot of people don't know that if you lose your job on an H-1B, you only have 60 days to either find another job or pack your bags and leave,” she said. “I really enjoy the aspect of advocating for my own community, but also for a community that needs to be seen.”

A Law Degree at a Policy School

Receiving her LLM at Fletcher was an important step in building Chaudhary’s career. After receiving her BA and LLB in India, Chaudhary found that Fletcher’s LLM held unique appeal as she envisioned her career.

“I wanted to keep a link to my legal background. I didn't want to go to law school and completely pivot to policy. An LLM would help me work at the crossroads of advocacy, law, and policy. I always wanted the best of all worlds, which is why I did a legal degree, but at a policy-based school.”

“Today, I am pretty confident when it comes to questions of law, but I'm also confident when it comes to policy because of the subjects I studied,” she added.

Even as a student, Chaudhary embodied the characteristics that have come to represent her career: a commitment to service and finding ways to uplift others. As a student researcher, she supported Professor Dyan Mazurana on a concept note and investigated how they could determine if child marriage was happening in humanitarian settings. She was co-director of Fletcher LEADS and Fletcher Global Women. She also helped to coordinate the annual Conference on Gender in International Affairs. She was appointed to Honos Civicus for her commitment to community service and civic engagement.

The multitude of her classmates’ specializations also enhanced the ways Chaudhary thought about the law, better preparing her for her work today. 

“One of the reasons why I chose Fletcher was the freedom that it provides students when it comes to choosing your own expertise,” said Chaudhary.

“If you pick any student at Fletcher, they will have a different expertise they are mastering,” she added. “Mine was gender-based violence and international law. A couple of my classmates were doing trade law. Some were pursuing space law. Everybody had a different expertise — that's one of the main reasons why I chose Fletcher.”

Read more about Fletcher’s LLM degree program.