Boston College is part of a consortium of thirteen Jesuit law schools that have partnered with the nonprofit Jesuit Refugee Service/USA in an effort to study and improve upon the resources available to unaccompanied children and immigrant families from Central America who seek refuge in the United States. Many of these immigrants are fleeing threats of violence in their home countries.
According to a recent press release by JRS/USA, there is a larger need to raise awareness about the legal, social and cultural challenges that migrants seeking protection are confronting upon their arrival, including access to timely and appropriate screening, fair process affording the immigrants the opportunity to fully articulate their claims for protection, and preserving their safety, dignity and well-being as they seek relief.
“There are important legal and policy concerns, such as access to counsel and how immigration law treats these victims, that can be best addressed by those who directly represent the children and families,” said Mary Holper, a clinical professor at BC Law and director of the School’s Immigration Clinic. “I am proud to say that our Immigration Clinic and Juvenile Rights Advocacy Program (JRAP) have represented several children fleeing Central American violence, and I look forward to the collaboration with other Jesuit law schools on this very pressing issue of unaccompanied minors and immigrant families fleeing tremendous violence in Central America.”
Boston College Law School has long been a leader in the field of immigration law. Professor Dan Kanstroom is the director of the school’s International Human Rights Program and an Associate Director of the Boston College Center for Human Rights and International Justice. Kanstroom, author of Deportation Nation and numerous other books and articles on immigration law, was the founder of the Boston College Immigration Clinic, in which students represent indigent non-citizens and asylum-seekers. Prof. Kanstroom also co-founded the Post Deportation Human Rights Project, which represents clients after deportation and seeks to develop international standards to ensure the human rights of deported persons and their families. The Project has a branch in Zacualpa, Guatemala that works with many Guatemalan deportees.
“This project connects to the deepest ethical underpinnings of this University,” said Kanstroom. “I am honored to be a part of it and I believe it will lead to extremely significant research and—as importantly—to better models for provision of legal and other services to people who have suffered so much but who often find themselves either ignored or vilified.”
Clinical Professor Francine Sherman, who runs the Juvenile Rights Advocacy Program at BC Law, is a national leader in juvenile rights and part of the BC Law team working on the project along with Holper and Kanstroom. She thinks the consortium could make a real difference, particularly in the case of unaccompanied minors entering the country without a guardian to help them navigate the complex world of immigration law. “Effective representation of these unaccompanied minors often requires children’s law and immigration law expertise, as well as an interdisciplinary approach through which children and families can access education and community services. That is exactly the approach we are taking in these cases at BC Law and one that fits well with the consortium of Jesuit law schools’ efforts.”
The initial project by the consortium will be a policy paper highlighting the current legal options available to immigrants entering the U.S., as well as recommending ways to better manage the process and provide more effective services.
(Photo: Jesuit Refugee Service)