The Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic (HIRC), in partnership with Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), has worked with hundreds of immigrants and refugees from all over the world since its founding by Clinical Professor Deborah Anker in 1984.

HIRC engages students in the direct representation of victims of human rights abuses applying for U.S. refugee and related protections. Students have the experience of fully developing an asylum claim, conducting client interviews, and preparing legal briefs. Students may also be involved in the development of position papers and innovative legal theories for amicus briefs filed in U.S. courts and with international tribunals. HIRC students participate in the Immigration and Refugee Advocacy seminar, which addresses substantive national and international refugee law, issues of credibility and proof, and fundamental advocacy skills. Through active participation in the Clinic and seminar, HIRC students are introduced to a complex body of international treaty-based law and norms, as well as to current interpretive controversies in refugee law. Students learn about the mediating role of institutions and legal processes in shaping the law and engage critically with complicated international and domestic legal issues.

At the core of HIRC’s work is helping individuals in serious need: about 80 percent of students’ time is devoted to direct client representation. In addition to refugee law, Clinic students learn about the human rights of immigrants, including unnecessary detention of immigrants, conditions of detention, and bond hearings. The Clinic teaches students about prosecutorial discretion, deferred action, and legal remedies for undocumented students. Clinic clients include women and children eligible for protection under the Violence Against Women Act, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, and U visas. The Clinic also represents individuals eligible for cancellation of removal based on their length of time in the United States, good moral character, and relationship to a U.S. citizen qualifying relatives. This fall, students will also engage in voter registration in immigrant communities in preparation for the upcoming elections.

Harvard Law School is committed to the full inclusion of students with disabilities in the life of the University. Students requesting accessibility resources or accommodations in any of HLS’s Clinical and Pro Bono Programs may work with Accessibility Services in the Dean of Students Office. If you are a student with a documented disability and you are requesting accommodations, please contact HLS Accessibility Services to discuss and register for accommodations. 

The Intersection of Criminal Law and Immigration Law

In recent years, HIRC has expanded its work to address issues at the intersection of criminal law and immigration, and trauma and the law.

HIRC course offerings now include a Crimmigration clinical track, as well as an interdisciplinary seminar on trauma, refugees and the law. In the Crimmigration clinic and accompanying seminar, students learn about the intersection of criminal law and immigration law. In the trauma seminar, students explore cutting-edge issues at the intersection of refugee law, psychology, and medicine, with guest lectures from internationally-recognized trauma and memory experts and close collaboration with the Clinic’s social worker in curriculum-planning and instruction.

Harvard Immigration Project

HIRC also works with student groups, including the Harvard Immigration Project (HIP), a student-practice organization under HIRC’s umbrella, to sponsor speakers on a range of topics, including national immigration legislation, treatment of refugees around the world, and detention and deportation.   HIP represents clients seeking release from detention in Massachusetts, promotes policy reform, and provides representation to international refugees as well as to asylees who are seeking family reunification and legal residency (green card) – a service generally not provided by organizations in the Boston area.

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