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Spring 2021 Seminar

Trauma, Refugees and Asylum Law

Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: No Exam

Refugees are among the most vulnerable populations in our legal system today and are among the most challenging to represent. They are the quintessential trauma survivors. Because trauma affects refugees’ memories, emotions, and demeanor, representation requires lawyers to surmount barriers to elicit information about the harm suffered in order to narrate the refugees’ story persuasively and effectively. For these reasons, lawyers often work closely with mental health professionals and medical doctors both to treat refugees and to substantiate their claims.

Critical as it is to the success of refugees’ legal cases, collaboration among lawyers, medical doctors, and mental health professionals raises provocative and important issues. Lawyers, mental health clinicians, and doctors each have expertise in their own fields, but view their mandates through different lenses.

This seminar will address the intersection of immigration and refugee law, trauma, and psychology, drawing on literature from both law and psychology, as well as on immigrant and refugee narratives as told through various genres and media. Guest speakers will include doctors, psychologists, social workers, immigrants, refugees, and advocates.

Social work perspectives will be integrated throughout the course, and students will learn about and participate in a series of self-reflection and mindfulness exercises. The course will highlight the importance of self-care and debriefing strategies among professionals who work with clients exposed to trauma.