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Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic

HIRC Meeting

The Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic (HIRC) has two sites: one at HLS, the other at the largest legal services provider in Massachusetts, Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS). For 30 years, the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC or the Clinic) has influenced the development of U.S. and international refugee law and assisted people from around the world fleeing the most serious human rights abuses. Founded in 1984, HIRC is among the oldest clinics at Harvard Law School and one of the first immigration and refugee clinics in the country.

HIRC is a flagship clinical program, providing the highest-quality instruction, promoting creative scholarship, advancing domestic and international perspectives in the law, and affording innovative models of public service and legal professionalism to students. HIRC has shaped the course of clinical legal education and has spurred the creation of immigration and refugee clinics across the country and internationally. Law school clinical programs in immigration law are growing in the United States, fueled by the internationalization of legal education, substantive changes in immigration, asylum, and human rights law, and the exponential modern growth of the immigration bar. The Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program continues to be preeminent in the field. HIRC combines representation of individual applicants for asylum and other forms of humanitarian relief with the development of theories and policy relating to asylum and refugee law. HIRC students take the lead in representing clients from all over the world who are seeking protection from being returned to human rights abuses in their country of origin, protection from exile after years of living in the United States, or reunification with their families. HIRC is also involved in appellate and policy advocacy at the local, national, and international levels, and provides legal and technical support to immigrants detained because of criminal charges or convictions. 

HIRC’s director and supervisors are nationally and internationally known teachers, practitioners, and scholars who have published widely. Clinical teaching and instructional staff have received numerous bar association awards, including the prestigious Founders Award of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, for path-breaking work on behalf of women refugees.

Advancing Refugee Scholarship Nationally and Internationally

HIRC is renowned worldwide and gained widespread recognition for drafting historic U.S. gender asylum guidelines, which changed the course of refugee law both in the United States and internationally. HIRC published the first major treatise on U.S. asylum law, The Law of Asylum in the United States. Law of Asylum, 5th edition, is now available to order from West. Working collaboratively with the Harvard Human Rights Program, HIRC has brought challenges before Canadian and U.S. courts and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. HIRC students have drafted appellate and amicus briefs that have led to ground-breaking administrative, judicial, and international legal decisions, including by the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security have engaged HIRC in the training of immigration judges and asylum officers with regard to issues relating to asylum law.

Last modified: March 19, 2014

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