Collaborations and Initiatives
The Asylum and Human Rights Clinic works closely with other components of the University of Connecticut, experts from a variety of disciplines, and organizations in the community to enhance services for its clients, enrich students’ professional education, and further public understanding concerning human rights, immigration, and refugees.
In an exciting joint project with the UConn School of Social Work that got underway in the fall of 2011, a social work student does a year-long internship with the Asylum and Human Rights Clinic, working closely with Clinic law students to help meet the full range of clients’ legal and non-legal needs. The Clinic also collaborates closely with faculty at the Social Work School who focus on the intersection of social work and human rights. In the fall of 2011, Miriam Marton and Jon Bauer co-taught a class about refugees to students at the School of Social Work, and social work professor Megan Berthold taught Asylum Clinic classes on the mental health consequences of persecution and torture.
As part of a robust continuing collaboration with the UConn Health Center, doctors in the School of Medicine’s psychiatry residency program and graduate students in psychology conducted evaluations of the Clinic clients and served as expert witnesses, supervised by Dr. Julian Ford, a medical school faculty member who is a nationally-known expert on post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Asylum and Human Rights Clinic also has strong links with the main University of Connecticut campus in Storrs. In the spring of 2012, an undergraduate majoring in Human Rights did an internship with the Clinic and provided valuable assistance with country conditions research and non-legal advocacy for clients. In the fall of 2011, Professor Jon Bauer taught a class on Central American asylum-seekers as part of an undergraduate honors seminar on Migrant Workers in Connecticut, and gave a talk at UConn’s Institute of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies about human rights issues in the immigration detention system. Clinic law students regularly collaborate with political scientists, historians and scholars in other disciplines, from UConn and many other academic institutions, who generously donate their time and expertise to serve as expert witnesses about conditions in our clients’ home countries.
The Asylum and Human Rights Clinic regularly organizes events at the law school to increase awareness concerning human rights issues and refuges. On April 16, 2012, the Law School and School of Social Work co-sponsored a program to celebrate the Clinic’s tenth anniversary. The event featured a keynote speech from the Honorable Bruce Einhorn, a former immigration judge and Justice Department lawyer who helped to draft the 1980 U.S. law on asylum. Munira Okovic, a former Clinic client from Bosnia who was recently sworn in as a U.S. citizen, also spoke movingly about what the Clinic’s representation meant to her. In 2011, the Asylum and Human Rights Clinic helped to bring the Houses on the Moon Theater Company to the law school campus for a performance of Tara’s Crossing, a provocative and moving theater piece about a transgendered asylum seeker, which was followed by a panel discussion in which the playwright, asylum advocates and the real-life “Tara” spoke with the audience.
The Asylum Clinic’s outreach extends well beyond UConn. In April 2012, Professor Miriam Marton spoke in Rochester, New York at the Conable Conference in International Studies about trauma and female asylum-seekers. She also spoke at an interdisciplinary conference on humiliation and human dignity held at Columbia University in December 2011, and conducted a training session for University of Pennsylvania law students on interviewing refugees. Professor Jon Bauer presented a paper on dual nationality and asylum, and also conducted a teaching demonstration of an exercise on collaboration, at the biannual Immigration Law Professors Conference held at Hofstra Law School in June 2012. In past years, Clinic law students and faculty have made presentations relating to the Clinic’s work to high school students at Hartford High School’s Law and Government Academy, faculty and law students at the University of Brescia in Italy, the Connecticut chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and the audience attending a human rights-themed play at the Charter Oak Cultural Center.
The Clinic cooperates closely with legal services agencies, the private bar, and organizations including Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, Catholic Charities, and the International Institute of Connecticut, in making and receiving case referrals, and seeking to expand the availability of legal services to immigrants and asylum seekers.
We are grateful for generous financial support provided by the Joshua Greenberg Memorial Fund, the William R. Davis Clinic Endowment Fund, the Wilde Family Foundation, the Stephen Frishauf and Elise Pappenheim Fund, the University of Connecticut Human Rights Institute, and many individual alumni donors. Their contributions have sustained the Asylum and Human Rights Clinic's work and made its ongoing success possible.