Asylum & Refugees

Since its founding, our program has engaged in pioneering policy advocacy and litigation around issues in asylum law. Amicus briefs filed by our program have led to ground-breaking decisions in the areas of gender asylum and child advocacy, and we continue to file litigation to expand and protect the rights of asylum-seekers.

Direct Representation

We offer direct representation to asylum-seekers through the Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Clinic and the Harvard Representation Initiative. Here are the stories of some of our past clients:

  • Jane fled to the U.S. with her daughter to save them from her abusive spouse. Attorneys and clinical students helped Jane build her case and she was granted asylum.
  • A young Haitian political activist, who was targeted by political opponents for her attempts to expose electoral corruption and advocate for women’s rights, was granted asylum after working with students and supervisors at GBLS.
  • “Isabel” and her children came to the U.S. seeking protection from corrupt government officials in her home country of Guatemala. After much hard work by HIRC attorneys and students, she and her family were granted withholding of removal.

Litigation

Pangea Legal Services II v. DHS – Preliminary Injunction (01/21)
This is the preliminary injunction that was granted following our Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) request regarding a new rule that would restrict asylum eligibility.

Pangea Legal Services v. DHS – TRO Request (12/20)
This Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) request is regarding a new rule that would restrict asylum eligibility. Our Program represents plaintiffs in the lawsuit that was filed.

Pangea Legal Services v. DHS – Complaint (12/20)
This complaint is regarding a new rule that would restrict asylum eligibility. Our Program represents plaintiffs in the lawsuit that was filed.

Pangea Legal Services v. DHS – Litigation Update & FAQs (12/20)
This document provides background information, updates, and a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section on the litigation regarding a new rule that would restrict asylum eligibility.

Pangea Legal Services et al. v. DHS – Decision (11/20)
This decision issues a nationwide injunction against a new rule that would restrict asylum eligibility. Our Program represents plaintiffs in the lawsuit that was filed.

Pangea Legal Services et al. v. DHS – Complaint (11/20)
Our Program represents plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regarding a new rule that drastically restricts asylum eligibility.

Vasques v. Wolf (08/20)
This brief addresses the dangerous effects of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP).

J-B-B-C- v. Wolf (06/20)
This brief challenges the Trump administration’s restriction of asylum procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.T. et al. v. Barr (03/20)
This brief challenges the Asylum Cooperative Agreements with Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador and argues against the designation of Guatemala as a “safe third country.”

DHS v. Vijayakumar Thuraissigiam (01/20)
This brief challenges the expedited removal of bona fide asylum-seekers.

In the Matter of A-B- (01/20)
In this brief, HIRC and GBLS address the cognizability of “Salvadoran women” as a particular social group.

Kenia Martinez Mejia v. Barr (10/19)
This brief challenges a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decision on a gender-based asylum claim. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted the appeal on August 27, 2020.

In the Matter of [Redacted] (06/19)
This favorable decision granted the asylum application of a woman from Guatemala.

BIA decision (01/19)
HIRC filed a petition for review challenging the Board’s denial of a motion to reopen a removal order. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the case to the Board, which reopened the case.

In the Matter of A-B- (03/18).
This brief, filed jointly with AILA, Human Rights First, and KIND, argues that immutable characteristics like sex and gender are protected categories within the terms of the refugee definition.

Amicus Brief on Material Support Bar (04/17)
This brief submitted to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) argues that giving the word “material” independent meaning will help ensure that “bona fide” refugees who pose no threat to the U.S. and are otherwise eligible for refugee protection, are not barred from asylum and withholding of removal and in violation of the U.S. obligations under the Refugee Convention.

Negusie v. Holder (2016, 2017)
These briefs argue that there should be a duress defense to the persecutor of other bars to asylum.

Matter of D-P- (11/15)
HIRC and GBLS successfully argued that social activism against gangs constituted political opinion.

Ordonez-Quino v. Holder (07/14)
This decision of the First Circuit Court of Appeals found past persecution in the case of a Mayan man, based on the long history of genocide in Guatemala and related racist mistreatment.

Jose Fuentes Colocho v. U.S. Attorney General (11/13)
This brief argues that MS-13 is a political entity and that Mr. Fuentes-Colocho’s opposition to MS-13 constitutes political opinion.

Mejilla-Romero v. Holder (08/10)
This decision of the First Circuit Court of Appeals recognized the importance of a child-sensitive approach to asylum.

Policy Advocacy

Comments on Procedures for Asylum and Withholding of Removal (10/20)
Our program, in partnership with the HLS Immigration Project, submitted comments on a proposed rule regarding accelerated application submission and adjudication timelines.

Comments on Changes to I-589 Form (08/20)
Our program submitted comments in opposition to proposed changes to the I-589 form (Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal).

Comments on Security Bars and Processing (08/20)
Our program submitted comments expressing opposition to a proposed ban on asylum grants in light of COVID-19.

Comments on Asylum Regulations (07/20)
Our program, in collaboration with the HLS Immigration Project, submitted comments on proposed regulations to asylum issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Comments on Asylum Regulations (01/20)
We submitted comments urging the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice to withdraw proposed amendments on procedures and bars to asylum.

Hearing request (07/19)
HIRC filed a hearing request with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to discuss the human rights abuses of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Hearing request (10/17)
HIRC filed a hearing request with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to discuss the human rights situation of refugee claimants under the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States.

Emergency Hearing on Executive Orders (02/17)
This request, granted by the Commission, raised concerns about the Safe Third Country Agreement, and made the case that the U.S. is no longer a “safe” place for asylum seekers.

The Impact of President Trump’s Executive Orders on Asylum Seekers (02/17)
This report investigates the various ways in which the Executive Orders from President Trump have affected asylum seekers. Issues highlighted include delays in adjudication, discrimination against asylum seekers, and denial of family reunification.

Syrian Refugee Resettlement Report (05/17)
This report, made possible by a grant from the Howard and Abby Milstein Foundation and catalyzed by the situation facing Syrian refugees, contains extensive recommendations regarding the United States’ role in protecting vulnerable refugees, safeguarding foreign policy interests, advancing American job creation, and complying with humanitarian and legal obligations. The report is accompanied by an Executive Summary and Recommendations, as well as a corresponding compendium laws

Recent News

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