Harvard Law School students in two clinical programs saw their work showcased in a Canadian House of Commons committee hearing on February 8. Clinical Professor Deborah Anker testified before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration regarding a report written by HLS students in the Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program and the Harvard International Human Rights Clinic.

“Our Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program has been collaborating with Canadian colleagues for 20 years,” Anker said. “We find our work to be extremely important because if refugee protection deteriorates at the rate it currently is world-wide, human rights violations will escalate, and we will all pay the price.”

Students were active in all aspects of writing the report, including conducting research by going on fact-finding missions to three ports of entry along the U.S.-Canada border, conducting phone interviews, reviewing cases and petitions, and reading legal scholarship and commentary.

“It was a fascinating experience, and a wonderful opportunity,” said Efrat Arbel LL.M. ’07, a student from Canada who helped Anker prepare for the hearing. Arbel also accompanied Anker to Ottawa and assisted her throughout the testimony.

Entitled “Bordering on Failure,” the Harvard report examined the effect of the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), which was implemented by both the U.S. and Canada in 2004 to exercise more control over the border between the two countries.

The policy forces refugee claimants to seek protection in the first country they reach — either the United States or Canada. Since the policy’s implementation in 2004, Canada rarely accepts asylum-seekers who have come through the U.S.

As the title suggests, the report found that the policy is not effective at achieving its goal of protecting the border. The report states that the STCA “makes the border less secure, endangering the lives of refugee claimants and threatening the security of the United States and Canada.”

U.S. and Canadian laws on accepting immigrants differ, according to the study, making it more difficult for individuals to seek refuge in the United States. The divergence of U.S. and Canadian laws and the power granted by the STCA has increased the amount of human smuggling on the border between the two countries.

Canadian officials are expected to review the policy and take action on the findings from the February 8 hearing in the upcoming year.

The full text of the report can be viewed here.