On October 27th, in honor of the bicentennial celebration of the Harvard Law School, HIRC led a conversation on gender asylum titled “Women Refugees And Why Law Matters.” The session, which was organized and moderated by HIRC’s Sabi Ardalan (HLS’02), brought together a diverse group of speakers who offered unique perspectives on the state of immigration law.
HIRC founder and director Deborah Anker (HLS ’84) started off the discussion, along with Nancy Kelly, co-director of HIRC at Greater Boston Legal Services. They provided a brief history of gender asylum law and the critical role HIRC played in developing this jurisprudence.
“Through direct representation, our clinic, along with others, has helped shape the thinking of decision-makers, changed the culture of legal institutions, and put pressure on higher level decision-makers,” said Anker, to a full room of HLS students and alumni.
Many of the speakers focused on the challenges immigrants face in the legal system. The Honorable Norman H. Stahl (HLS ‘55) spoke about his experience as a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Marina Basseas (HLS ‘14), an asylum officer with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), detailed the backlog of 20,000 cases that USCIS is facing and how that affects those who are waiting to be granted asylum. Elizabeth Nehrling Sotiriou, from the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition, spoke about the challenges facing children who are detained at the U.S./Mexico border, and Julina Guo (HLS ‘15), from the New York City Commission on Human Rights, shared her experience working with survivors of sex trafficking.