Reflections on HIRC from the Class of 2022

Today, we prepare to say good-bye to students from the Harvard Law School Class of 2022 who have participated in the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic. Our graduating clinical students have contributed immensely to HIRC’s work, from assembling humanitarian-based relief immigration applications to drafting district court complaints and appeals briefs to engaging in class action litigation. Despite starting their law school experience during a global pandemic, they have been fully committed to their work both in the classroom and in the Clinic.  

Since the beginning of their time at HIRC, the Class of 2022 has enthusiastically taken on a variety of projects. For example, during his first semester with the Clinic, George Biashvili ’22 was tasked with helping prepare an amicus brief before the Ninth Circuit regarding the interpretation of the derivative citizenship statue. “I had no idea that, in my second year of law school, I’d be invoking principles such as legislative intent or the rule against surplusage outside of the classroom,” he reflected. “Over 20 immigration law scholars signed on to the amicus brief. A few months later, the Ninth Circuit agreed with our interpretation of the statute.” 

Two women stand close to each other, smiling at the camera.

Gina Starfield ’22 (right) and her client finally met in-person this spring.

Working alongside their supervisors and fellow students, clinical students from the Class of 2022 dove right into their assigned projects, eager to learn about new areas of law. “Taking on different types of projects has helped me develop a more robust view of the immigration system and a better understanding of the network of legal advocates working to improve it,” said Jack Beard ’22, who worked on an affirmative asylum case, as well as several litigation and advocacy projects. 

While each student had a unique experience at HIRC, they all stated that working with clients was what truly made their clinical experience memorable. Despite the long hours often required to complete applications, their clients made all the hard work worth it. “Few things are as rewarding as telling your client that they no longer have to worry about a problem that was at the forefront of their mind,” said George.  

For students who stayed with the Clinic for multiple semesters, they worked with some of their clients for years. In the Fall of 2020, Gina Starfield ‘22 and Jack started working on the case of Rose*, a woman who was subjected to non-consensual, invasive gynecological procedures while detained at Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia. Gina, Jack, Ayano Kitano ‘22 and other clinical students helped produce a report highlighting the experiences of Rose and other survivors, and Gina continued to advocate for Rose’s release even after the semester ended. Rose was released from detention in December 2020 and this spring Gina was finally able to meet her in person. Their reunion was powerful for both Gina and Rose. “After nearly two years of skype calls and zoom meetings, beginning with dimly lit video conferences from ICE detention, [Rose] and I were face to face, hugging and holding hands,” said Gina. “Her strength and resilience was palpable. We didn’t need to communicate verbally, just being in each other’s presence was powerful enough.” 

As our graduating students reflected on their time at Harvard Law School, they expressed their appreciation for the community they found at HIRC. “The opportunity to work with—and learn from—other HIRC students has been one of the many things I’ve loved about participating in HIRC,” said Jack. Gina also highlighted the deep connection she felt to HIRC, saying “HIRC is the place where I feel at home, where my fears and frustrations with the immigration system are met with understanding and acceptance. Alongside my supervisors and fellow students, I have seen the injustices of the system and relished moments of hope and optimism. HIRC has taught me so much about the law, as liberator and oppressor.” 

We are so proud of all that our graduating students have accomplished and we are deeply appreciative of their many contributions to our work at the Clinic. We hope that they continue to advocate fiercely for their clients and push for a more just, humane immigration system. No matter where they end up on their journey as legal advocates, they will always have a home at HIRC.  

*Name has been changed to protect client confidentiality.