The Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program has received a generous grant from the Howard and Abby Milstein Foundation to launch the Syrian Refugee Resettlement Project.

The Obama Administration has committed to resettling at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the current fiscal year. Due to bottlenecks in processing, the United States has fallen far short of its goal to date. Over the next six months, the Clinic will be working to gather and analyze information regarding current obstacles to efficient processing of Syrians destined for U.S. resettlement. The Clinic will compile a compendium of relevant laws and regulations related to refugee resettlement, document current practice, and make practical recommendations for improvements to those processes. The report will be broadly disseminated to both Congress and the Administration and will include specific recommendations for reform.

In describing the Project, Clinical Professor of Law and Director Deborah Anker explained, “Working with expert consultants Amy Nelson, formerly Director of the Refugee Processing Center at the Department of State, and Sana F. Shtasel (HKS ’88), Senior Advisor to the Multi-Faith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, and with the input of key government agencies, we are excited to gather together the International Rescue Committee, HIAS, International Refugee Assistance Project, and Human Rights Watch, as part of our exceptional Advisory Board — all of which have long-standing policy and on-the-ground experience in international refugee resettlement.” She notes that the UN General Assembly has designated June 20 as World Refugee Day to show identification with and compassion for refugees around the world. “It is a fitting moment to announce the HLS Syrian Refugee Resettlement Project,” Anker said.

Abby Milstein ’76 and Howard Milstein ’77 serve on the Executive Committee of the Dean’s Advisory Board, and Mrs. Milstein also serves on the Visiting Committee of Harvard Law School.

“Our refugee policy needs to be driven by the immortal words engraved on the Statue of Liberty: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ It is our humanitarian duty to provide safety and succor to Syrian refugees, 80% of whom are women and children,” said Howard Milstein. “But our welcome must be undergirded with the highly effective security screening that we have in place. That said, Syrian refugees can make a real contribution to our economy and our country by bringing their entrepreneurial spirit to America. If we don’t rescue them, we are contributing to the very condition that we most fear – radicalization born of desperation,” Milstein continued.

“We are so grateful to the Milstein Foundation for its leadership and initiative, enabling the opportunity to address the urgent needs of Syrian refugees at this critical time,” said Martha Minow, the Helen and Morgan Chu Dean and Professor at Harvard Law School. “Refugee protection respects human dignity as well as legal commitments to human rights, and HLS is honored to advance this work.”

The Syrian Refugee Resettlement Project is part of the Clinic’s long tradition of assisting refugees. “For more than 30 years, HIRC has influenced the development of U.S. and international refugee law and assisted people from around the world fleeing serious human rights abuses,” said Sabi Ardalan, Assistant Director of the HLS Clinic and a lecturer on law at HLS. The Syrian Refugee Resettlement Project builds on the Clinic’s long history of commitment to representing refugees, since the United States implemented its obligations under international refugee law with the 1980 Refugee Act.

In addition to its work on international refugee issues, the Clinic is also involved in appellate and policy advocacy at the local, national, and international levels, teaches students refugee law and trains them in the representation of persons seeking asylum and related humanitarian protection. The Clinic also provides legal and technical support to immigrants detained because of criminal charges or convictions.