President Donald Trump’s recent repeal of Temporary Protected Status has led some student activists and TPS recipients to argue that the University should hire more staff for the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic.
The Immigration and Refugee Clinic, staffed by attorneys and students at Harvard Law School, provides legal support for immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers. The clinic recently hired a full-time staff attorney, Jason M. Corral, to protect University affiliates impacted by the Trump administration’s revised policies.
In recent months, the Trump administration has decided to end the Temporary Protected Status program for immigrants from Sudan, Haiti, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, affecting hundreds of thousands of immigrants and potentially dozens of Harvard affiliates. For over a decade, TPS has granted temporary refuge in the United States to immigrants whose home countries are affected by armed conflict or natural disaster.
Trump’s decisions on TPS come on the heels of a Sept. 2017 decision to repeal DACA, an Obama-era program protecting individuals who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children from deportation. Nearly 800,000 youth in the U.S., including many of the College’s 65 undocumented students, rely on DACA for their legal status.
The flurry of recent changes to immigration programs, however, has led some to claim that the Immigration and Refugee Clinic is overburdened. In Nov. 2017, the undergraduate group Student Labor Action Movement published a petition addressed to Faust asking administrators to provide more information and support for those impacted by the changes to TPS. One of SLAM’s demands specifically requested that the University hire a second attorney at the law clinic.
Doris Reina-Landaverde, a Harvard campus services employee with TPS, said she thinks the Immigration and Refugee Clinic needs more staff to respond to recents changes in immigration policies.
“[Corral] needs help in the clinic because it’s a lot for him, even though he also works with students,” Reina-Landaverde, who is from El Salvador, said.
Landaverde’s husband Merdardo Landaverde, a campus building manager, said he thought the law clinic was burdened with a dual responsibility of handling cases and guiding Law School students.
“Jason had to be both helping me and helping the students. I think that shows right there the need for another lawyer,” said Merdardo Landaverde, who filed to renew his and his wife’s TPS status with the clinic.
Gabriela A. Rivero ’21, who works as a translator at the clinic, agreed that the clinic could benefit from having another lawyer.
“They’re doing a lot of great work, but they are spread a little thin,” Riverdo said.
In an email, Corral disagreed that there is a need to hire another full-time lawyer at the Immigration and Refugee Clinic.
“Despite how busy we are I do not feel like there is a need to hire additional attorneys at Harvard,” Corral wrote. “I feel confident that we have the needed resources to provide quality representation to the people on campus that are affected by Trump's immigration priorities.”
Corral said the clinic is supported by law students participating in the organization’s clinical program.
“Already we have trained approximately 50 law students on TPS applications and have conducted 4 TPS clinics in two weeks,” Corral wrote.
Corral also noted that the Immigration and Refugee Clinic partners with Greater Boston Legal Services, a legal aid group, and has an agreement with the law firm WilmerHale to represent Harvard affiliates pro-bono as needed.
Sabrineh Ardalan, assistant director of the Law School’s Immigration and Refugee Clinical program, wrote in an email that multiple part-time attorneys are present at TPS renewal clinics, and that her spring clinical students are required to volunteer for the clinics at least once.
A focus on the University’s response to the TPS repeals comes amid a broader discussion over the University resources for immigrant affiliates.
In the wake of the Trump administration’s travel ban in 2016, Harvard graduate students called on University President Drew G. Faust to increase support for undocumented and international students.
Faust herself has lobbied federal officials on multiple occasions, urging them to protect undocumented immigrants and refugees in the U.S. Last week, Faust wrote to congressional leaders asking them to consider permanent legislation to preserve the legal status of TPS recipients.
In an emailed statement, University spokesperson Melodie L. Jackson emphasized the current immigration resources available at Harvard.
“The President’s Office has funded the hiring of a full-time attorney and paralegal at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, as well as a part-time social worker and administrative assistant to provide free legal services to support Harvard community members with DACA, Temporary Protected Status, and other immigration concerns,” Jackson wrote.
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