It is a particularly exciting time to be involved in immigration and refugee issues. The international spotlight on the migrant crisis in Europe has focused attention worldwide on the movement of people across borders, fleeing violence and poverty in search of a better life. Global public opinion has also shifted towards recognizing a shared moral obligation to help those in need and a forceful push on states to do more.
The Harvard Immigration Project (HIP) is excited to serve as a forum on campus for students interested in being a part of this incredible moment of energy and opportunity. The breadth and depth of our activities demonstrate the diversity and interconnectedness of the various areas within the field. We kicked off the year by partnering with Project Citizenship during the Citizenship Day workshop in September, where student volunteers helped legal permanent residents in the Boston area apply for citizenship. Student members of each of HIP’s four projects are gearing up for another productive year of advocating and training in different areas of refugee and immigration law: our campus chapter of the International Refugee Assistance Project will be teaming with pro bono attorneys to assist refugees in the Middle East apply for refugee status and resettlement in the United States; the Removal Defense Project will be working on the defensive side of asylum proceedings, assisting noncitizen clients in detention facing potential deportation; the Immigration Services Project will be helping former clients of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic (HIRC) who have settled in the United States with follow-up immigration needs, such as petitioning for family reunification; and the Policy Project will be conducting legal and policy research and advocacy to support the Massachusetts Trust Act Coalition in its mission to reform policing in immigrant communities by combatting unconstitutional detention policies.
HIP is also organizing and sponsoring events on campus to help raise awareness and foster discussion on the important topics in migration that are being debated around the world today. Family detention policy in the United States will be highlighted and contextualized during a coffee chat with a mother who was held in a detention facility in Texas with her children; screening of a VICE documentary that follows the journeys of several Syrian refugees fleeing from the war is currently being planned; and the first HIP symposium will invite academics and practitioners from all over the world to engage in the difficult theoretical and policy questions confronting us today, such as the normative grounds for distinguishing between political refugees and economic migrants in refugee law. We look forward to engaging on immigration and refugee issues and providing space for Harvard Law School and the greater community to serve as leaders in thinking about innovative approaches to solving a global issue.