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Holper ’03 Wins Prestigious Immigration Award

PAIR honors professor for her "outstanding" achievements on behalf of others.


Mary Holper ’03, associate clinical professor and director of the Immigration Clinic at BC Law, is being honored with the 2018 Sarah B. Ignatius Award for Outstanding Achievement.

Presented by the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project, the award recognizes someone whose extraordinary passion for justice is consistent with PAIR’s mission of ensuring access to justice to vulnerable immigrants throughout Massachusetts. PAIR provides free legal services to asylum-seekers and promotes the rights of detained immigrants.

“I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award,” PAIR executive director Anita P. Sharma said in her letter of congratulations to Holper. “You have been such a strong supporter of PAIR since 2007, representing over 45 PAIR clients in need, winning many of these complex cases, presenting at PAIR trainings, encouraging others to take cases, and doing so with so much compassion and care. You are a true PAIR champion.”

“I’m honored to receive this award, especially since it is in the name of Sarah Ignatius, my former professor and clinical supervisor, whose passion for helping immigrants and deep knowledge of the law has been a constant inspiration for me,” said Holper. “In these days of extreme hostility towards immigrants, it is wonderful to be recognized for helping PAIR clients, who, with some legal help, have gone on to make incredible contributions to our communities.”

Holper has been affiliated with BC Law since attending law school here. Early on, she supervised students in the school’s immigration clinics and was a visiting assistant professor. She also was a detention fellow for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) at the Boston College Immigration and Asylum Project from 2005-07, and a Human Rights Fellow for the BC Center for Human Rights and International Justice from 2007-08. She began her career as an Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition in Washington, DC.

“This is wonderful and well deserved recognition for Mary, who has been an energetic, creative, compassionate, talented, and inspirational champion for the rights of immigrants since she was a student at BC Law many years ago,” said Professor Daniel Kanstroom, director of the International Human Rights Program and an associate director of the Boston College Center for Human Rights and International Justice. “She has also been a great teacher, mentor, and role model for many students, at BC and elsewhere.  I cannot imagine a more worthy honoree.”

Throughout her career, she has represented immigration detainees who face removal and has participated in impact litigation challenging the overuse of mandatory detention and indefinite detention and the classification of certain crimes as “aggravated felonies” in immigration law. In addition, Holper has spoken on numerous panels about immigration issues, particularly on the intersection of immigration law and crimes and removal proceedings. She also has written and co-authored articles for various handbooks, reference guides, and law reviews regarding immigration issues.

Holper will receive her award at a PAIR celebration on June 5 at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston.