Students Train to Aid Haitians
Law School Hosts Educational Program to Help Refugees
Approximately 200 law students and community workers from around the country attended a training session at Harvard Law School this week on how to help Haitian refugees get political asylum in the United States.
The event, held on Saturday in Austin Hall, was organized Law School lecturer Deborah Anker, coordinator of the Harvard Law School Immigration Programs.
Students coordinator Jeanne M. Atkinson, a third-year Law student, said that the session was organized to educate and mobilize people interested in providing legal assistance to refugees who request political asylum.
According to Atkinson, Boston has a "surprisingly large Haitian population."
"Quite a few of the refugees screened in from Guantanamo Bay are being brought to Catholic Charities [a volunteer organization in Boston]," she said.
The morning session began with introductory remarks by Anker, followed by a speech on the treatment of Haitian refugees in the U.S. delivered by Cheryl Little of the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami.
Little said that the discriminatory treatment of the Haitians was a clear case of racism.
Little also spoke about the lawsuit that her organization filed in connection with what she called unfair interviewing procedures on board Coast Guard vessels.
She stated that racism had caused the center to lose the case, saying, "There were three judges--two white, one Black. You can guess which way the vote went."
The other main speaker, Jocelyn McCalla of the National Coalition for Haitian Refugees, detailed human rights violations in Haiti.
The highlight of the afternoon session was a mock interview, designed to acquaint lawyers with the potential difficulties of interviewing Haitian clients.
Harry Hjardemaal, a Haitian-American third-year law student and one of the student coordinators of the event, was interviewed by Richard Iandoli, a Boston attorney.
Though the attendance fell noticeably as the afternoon wore on, the event was hailed by those present as interesting and informative.