15 Years Later: Immigration and 9/11

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Contributors: Deborah Anker, Sabrineh Ardalan '02 and Phil Torrey

A clinical professor of law and director of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC), Deborah Anker is the author of a leading treatise, “Law of Asylum in the United States.” Sabrineh Ardalan ’02 is HIRC’s assistant director, as well as senior clinical instructor and lecturer on law at HLS. Phil Torrey is a lecturer on law at HLS and the supervising attorney for the Harvard Immigration Project.

This tribute is part of a series of reflections from HLS faculty, staff and alumni on the 15th anniversary of 9/11. View all tributes.

Shortly after 9/11, Congress placed immigration enforcement within the authority of the newly created Department of Homeland Security. Spending on border security, immigration detention, and deportations skyrocketed. Immigrants were detained for long periods of time without formal charges. Thousands of immigrants from the Middle East and South Asia were required to register, be fingerprinted and photographed. Local and state law enforcement agents across the country took on traditionally federal immigration enforcement duties. The Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program responded to these changes, advocating for the protection of due process and civil rights on a local and national level, conducting outreach to Muslim communities, and representing immigrants and refugees targeted by these new policies.

Our hope is that through these efforts, we will train a new generation of lawyers to build an immigration and asylum system that is fair and effective for everyone.

Fifteen years later, HIRC continues to represent clients affected by post-9/11 enforcement measures. In addition to winning asylum for hundreds of refugees, HIRC has successfully advocated for the government to release mothers and children from family detention centers in South Texas. The clinic also provides amicus support and expert affidavits in immigration cases across the country, including cases challenging immigration detention and asylum procedures in the post-9/11 era. Our hope is that through these efforts, we will train a new generation of lawyers to build an immigration and asylum system that is fair and effective for everyone.