The Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program was established by Professor Deborah Anker LL.M. ’84 three decades ago. One of the first two immigration law clinics in the country, it is run in partnership with Greater Boston Legal Services. Under Anker’s guidance, hundreds of clinical students have helped more than a thousand people gain entry into the United States or avoid deportation. Anker is one of the most widely known asylum scholars and practitioners in the country; her treatise, “Law of Asylum in the United States,” is considered a bible in the field. She spoke with Katie Bacon in mid-March.
What first drew you to this area of the law?
I was very involved in local civil rights work around desegregation. This was my passion. And then I discovered immigration work, and I realized it was an area I had a direct connection to. My grandparents’ whole family got wiped out in the Holocaust; a lot of my parents’ generation did as well. I thought certainly as a Jew and as a social activist that this was a critical area and something that engaged me deeply.
How has the work of your clinic—and the types of cases that come to you—shifted over the years?
It has both shifted and remained grounded. One of the things that distinguishes our clinic from some others is that we’ve always been grounded in direct representation of clients. But it’s shifted in that we now do a lot of work on LGBT cases, gang cases and gender asylum, which is really an area of law that we created.
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