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Sabrineh Ardalan

  • Border patrol car at the US border with Mexico in San Diego with the fence behind.

    Cyberlaw Clinic weighs in on warrantless device searches at the US border

    August 27, 2020

    Two clinics at HLS— the Cyberlaw Clinic and the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic—partner on a case involving warrantless device searches at the U.S. border

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    Distance Learning Up Close

    July 23, 2020

    Teaching and learning at Harvard Law School in the first months of the pandemic

  • Refugee Eligibility: Challenging Stereotypes and Reviving the ‘Benefit of the Doubt’

    July 14, 2020

    An article by Sabrineh Ardalan: Asylum lawyers have long grappled with a tension inherent in refugee law – how to win protection for individual clients without reinforcing victim narratives and negative stereotypes about other cultures and countries. Last month, the Trump administration seized upon this tension in a new 161-page proposal that would rewrite the refugee definition and cut off most asylum seekers from protection. Specifically, the rule would make ‘evidence based on stereotypes’ inadmissible – on its face an unobjectionable proposal. Indeed, at a time when we are all called upon to challenge our assumptions, reflect on our biases, and address the ways in which our laws and legal practice reinforce systemic racism, the provision would appear to be both timely and necessary. Yet, because of the corroborating evidence so often required to establish asylum eligibility, the provision would make it difficult, if not impossible, for many to obtain protection. The rule’s wide-ranging provisions include measures to fast-track deportations of asylum seekers, reject asylum applications as frivolous without ever affording asylum seekers a day in court, ratchet up the type of harm required to demonstrate eligibility for protection, and make it extraordinarily difficult to show a connection between the harm suffered or feared and a protected ground,[1] as the refugee definition requires. It would be too much to expect that a timely provision would be responsive to refugees’ plight in the current moment, instead of another cruel attack on asylum.

  • Supreme Court decision shielding DACA draws relief, celebration

    June 19, 2020

    ... Members of the community, including students and alumni who are protected under DACA praised the Court’s ruling, among them Mitchell Santos Toledo, J.D. ’20, a recent Harvard Law School graduate who arrived in Cambridge not long after President Donald Trump announced his plans in 2017 to cancel the program, which had been instituted by President Barack Obama in 2012. “It was rough. You’re talking about moving across the country, starting this huge academic journey at a School at Harvard, and then having the only semblance of protection that you’ve known for the past five, six years sort of just yanked from underneath you,” said Toledo, whose name was listed in the documents submitted to the court in support of DACA. ... At Harvard Law School, Professor Sabrineh Ardalan broke down the decision, saying that the court found the administration hadn’t adequately explained why DACA was unlawful. “The court says that if the administration wanted to end DACA, it would have had to engage in a much more rigorous analysis, including of the reliance interests at stake, and it didn’t provide a reasoned explanation for its decision. And so, its decision to end the program was arbitrary and capricious because it didn’t go through those steps,” said Ardalan, who directs the Immigration and Refugee Clinic at Harvard Law School, which helps hundreds of people with undocumented status through a range of programs.

  • Niku Jafarnia sitting outside on the steps of Pound Hall as Harvard Law

    At Harvard, Niku Jafarnia J.D. / M.P.P. ’20 found a wealth of ways to advocate for refugees

    May 24, 2020

    With the aim of advocating for refugees, Niku Jafarnia J.D. / M.P.P.’20 focused on the intersection of refugee rights, armed conflict, and counterterrorism as joint law and public policy student at Harvard.

  • The Trump Administration, COVID-19, and the continuing assault on the rights of asylum seekers and refugees

    May 12, 2020

    An article by Sabi Ardalan: Sixty people in bunk beds in one room. A communal bathroom. Time in the ‘hole’ – or solitary confinement – if sick. That is how one asylum-seeking client describes the situation in immigration detention during COVID-19. Held in private, for-profit detention centres for more than 16 months, this client has difficulty breathing, a racing heart, and other complications from a stab wound he suffered before fleeing his home country. In recent weeks, he has described constant and debilitating body aches and pain. But despite repeated requests to see a doctor, he has not received any medical attention.  This client’s case is just one example of the disproportionate and devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States – and, as important, the Trump administration’s malicious response to it – on refugees and asylum seekers. Lawsuits challenging immigration detention during COVID-19 have met with varying degrees of success across the country. The judge who heard this client’s case has thus far refused to order his release, convinced by the warden that social distancing was possible. Some judges have, however, mandated the release of immigrants from detention, citing the rapid spread of COVID-19. Others have ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement to assess whether medically vulnerable immigrants should be detained. But this piecemeal approach has left many of the approximately 50,000 immigrants detained each day in the US at risk of contracting the virus.

  • Harvard immigration and Refugee logo

    Years of advocacy by HIRC culminate in landmark decision by First Circuit

    April 29, 2020

    Years of advocacy by Harvard Law School’s Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program have culminated in a landmark decision recognizing gender as basis for asylum claims.

  • Screen shot of an online meeting with professor and a male and female student

    HLS clinics and students fight for the most vulnerable amid COVID-19

    April 11, 2020

    For the Clinical Program at Harvard Law School, the past weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic have been a time to mobilize. As the clinics have moved to working remotely, their work has continued with new urgency.

  • Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program submits civil rights complaint to DHS regarding treatment of deported Iranian student

    February 7, 2020

    On Jan. 29, attorneys from the Harvard Law School’s Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC) submitted a complaint to the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on behalf of their client, Reihana Emami Arandi, an Iranian student who was denied entry to the United States despite having a valid visa to attend the Harvard Divinity School. The complaint details extensive discriminatory behavior and regulatory violations by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that began upon Ms. Emami Arandi’s arrival at Logan Airport on September 18, 2019...“Ms. Emami Arandi suffered, and continues to suffer, lasting trauma due to CBP’s egregious violations of its own regulations and procedures,” said Sabi Ardalan ’02, clinic director. “CBP’s abuse of discretion in repeatedly denying entry and revoking valid visas of students from the Middle East based on unfounded allegations of immigrant intent requires investigation.”

  • HIRC logo

    Civil rights complaint filed on behalf of deported Iranian student

    February 4, 2020

    On Jan. 29, attorneys from HIRC submitted a complaint to the Department of Homeland Security on behalf of their client, an Iranian student who was denied entry to the U.S. despite having a valid visa.

  • Counterterrorism Laws Punish Legitimate Asylum Seekers

    February 3, 2020

    Ammar was 16 years old when his high school headmaster in his hometown about 60 miles outside of Baghdad signed him up to join the local government militia...The government had established local militias across the country, often exploiting the service of teenage boys who had little choice but to join...As a 28-year-old asylum seeker, Ammar learned that his high school headmaster’s decision to compel him to join the militia would likely result in his deportation back to Iraq. Ammar’s case is not exceptional. The challenges he faced in applying for asylum are indicative of the ways in which exclusions to refugee status in U.S. law — originally developed to prevent Nazi war criminals from attaining asylum — have dramatically expanded in scope, preventing many innocent refugees from successfully applying for asylum and resettlement in the United States...Sabi Ardalan, assistant director of the Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program at Harvard Law School, described the ubiquitous nature of these terrorism- and persecutor-related rejections for Middle Easterners fleeing persecution: “Pretty much any client from the Middle East who’s from a country where there’s any form of activity that the U.S. considers to be ‘terrorism-related’ has ended up with accusations of providing material support to terrorists.” And where the terrorism bar may not apply, such as in the case of the government-run militia into which Ammar was forcibly conscripted in high school, Ardalan says, the U.S. may try to apply what’s known as the “persecutor bar” — a bar to asylum for those who have “persecuted others” in their lifetime.

  • Detail of Austin Hall

    Leading scholars bring new expertise

    February 2, 2020

    Effective Jan. 1, three faculty members were promoted and two new scholars joined the HLS faculty.

  • Sabrineh Ardalan '02

    Sabrineh Ardalan named clinical professor of law and faculty director of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

    January 28, 2020

    Sabrineh Ardalan ’02, who teaches in the fields of immigration and refugee law and advocacy, was appointed a clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School and faculty director of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program.

  • Photograph of Brianna Rennix '18 outside leaning on a porch ledge.

    Prepared for the Challenge

    January 7, 2020

    As students, they participated in the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program. As lawyers, they have continued the work in a field that is increasingly challenging—and fulfilling

  • Gianna Borroto '11 sitting in a green room posing

    Gianna Borroto ’11

    January 7, 2020

    Every week, the woman from Guatemala would bring her children. First, she would settle them into chairs to play with their toys. Then the woman,…

  • The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights At 70: How Far Have We Come?

    December 21, 2018

    An op-ed by Sanrineh Ardalan, J. Wesley Boyd and Katherine Peeler: Although this December marks the 70th anniversary of the UDHR, we feel compelled to ask whether we have made progress in realizing the principles articulated seven decades ago. Or does it feel like 1948 all over again?

  • Harvard Professors Decry Trump Administration Approach to Asylum Policy, Migrant Caravans

    November 30, 2018

    Harvard professors decried the Trump administration's asylum policies to a packed room at the Law School Thursday, condemning in particular the administration's treatment of caravans of Central American migrants seeking asylum in the United States — the latest flashpoint in the country's immigration debate. In the hour-long panel, “The Migrant Caravan and the Law and Politics of the Border,” Anthropology Professor Ieva Jusionyte and Law School Clinical Professor Sabrineh Ardalan spoke about the legal, social, and political issues surrounding migrant caravans. Three Law School student organizations — Harvard Immigration Project, Mexican Law Students Association, and La Alianza — hosted the event...Harvard Law student and La Alianza member Perla F. “Fabi” Alvelais, who attended the event, reiterated the speakers' statements. She said the national discourse surrounding immigrants from Central America is “upsetting” and “completely wrong.”

  • Trump Is Rewriting Asylum Law

    November 14, 2018

    An op-ed by Sabrineh Ardalan. Two days after yet another mass shooting, President Donald Trump on Friday issued a proclamation addressing mass migration...The administration plans to restrict asylum only to those who present themselves at ports of entry; people entering the country via the southern border in any other way would be limited to much more circumscribed forms of relief that would not include reuniting with their family members, obtaining a green card, or a path to citizenship. The administration also plans to enter into an agreement with Mexico to force asylum seekers traveling through that country to claim protection there instead of in the United States.

  • Reflections from the border

    Reflections from the border

    November 2, 2018

    Students and faculty from the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program spent a week in Texas volunteering at the Karnes Detention Center, where they met with fathers and sons who had been forcibly separated from each other under President Trump’s zero-tolerance policy. They offer their thoughts on this powerful and eye-opening experience.

  • 25 Harvard Law Profs Sign NYT Op-Ed Demanding Senate Reject Kavanaugh

    October 4, 2018

    Roughly two dozen Harvard Law School professors have signed a New York Times editorial arguing that the United States Senate should not confirm Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Harvard affiliates — including former Law School Dean Martha L. Minow and Laurence Tribe — joined more than 1,000 law professors across the country in signing the editorial, published online Wednesday. The professors wrote that Kavanaugh displayed a lack of “impartiality and judicial temperament requisite to sit on the highest court of our land” in the heated testimony he gave during a nationally televised hearing held Sept. 27 in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee....As of late Wednesday, the letter had been signed by the following: Sabi Ardalan, Christopher T. Bavitz, Elizabeth Bartholet, Christine Desan, Susan H. Farbstein, Nancy Gertner, Robert Greenwald, Michael Gregory, Janet Halley, Jon Hanson, Adriaan Lanni, Bruce H. Mann, Frank Michelman, Martha Minow, Robert H. Mnookin, Intisar Rabb, Daphna Renan, David L. Shapiro, Joseph William Singer, Carol S. Steiker, Matthew C. Stephenson, Laurence Tribe, Lucie White, Alex Whiting, Jonathan Zittrain

  • Why domestic abuse and anti-gay violence qualify as persecution in asylum law

    June 15, 2018

    An article by Sabi Ardalan. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently upended decades of U.S. legal precedent by asserting that women fleeing domestic violence will not generally qualify for asylum. To do so, he challenged the principle that women victims of domestic violence are members of a “particular social group.” This phrase – “particular social group” – is critical to the work of immigration lawyers like myself. It allows us to argue that women, LGBTQ people and other vulnerable groups face specific kinds of persecution based on who they are. If left unchallenged, Sessions’ ruling could endanger thousands of asylum-seekers, including many of my clients.