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Law School Clinic Files Amicus Brief Against Trump’s Immigration Order

By Jamie D. Halper, Crimson Staff Writer

The Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic filed Thursday an amicus brief challenging President Donald Trump’s seven-country immigration order.

A team of clinic staff, Law School students, and attorneys at New York-based firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom filed the brief supporting a New York lawsuit against Trump’s order, which has faced legal challenges across the country. They argue that Trump’s order violates federal immigration statutes.

“But [the Immigration and Nationality Act] does not grant the President the far-reaching authority the Executive Order endeavors to exercise,” the brief reads.

The amicus brief is the latest in a series of actions the Law School clinic has taken to oppose Trump’s immigration and refugee-related policies. In particular, the clinic helped Harvard file an amicus brief challenging Trump’s order in the Ninth Circuit and and published a report on a refugee agreement between Canada and the United States.

Nate MacKenzie, a Law School student who directed the team of student researchers who worked on the brief, said the clinic filed it to help the court better understand the various statutory arguments related to the suit.

“With the amicus brief that we recently filed in the New York case, we were working with the [American Civil Liberties Union] and we decided it would be best if we put together a brief outlining some ways that we suggest the court should look at interpreting the Immigration and Nationality Act, which is the law that governs pretty much all of immigration,” MacKenzie said.

MacKenzie said he worked closely with Phil Torrey, a clinical instructor at the Law School, and Sabi Ardalan, the assistant director of HIRC, along with four student research teams, to send memos to the law firm, which turned the research into the formal brief submitted to the court.

Torrey said the legal team focused its arguments on criticizing the legal justification Trump used for the executive order.

“We knew that the ACLU and other organizations were going to be arguing more Constitutional-based arguments and we thought that based on our knowledge and the arguments presented in the case initially that this would be a good place for us to way in and help advance that argument,” Torrey said.

MacKenzie said it’s unclear how exactly the current cases will turn out if Trump signs another immigration executive order this week, as his staff have said he will.

“I think that the interesting thing about this brief is that it’s pretty comprehensive over all of the provisions of the executive order and I think that it’ll be interesting moving forward to see if the President does come out with a new executive order this week,” MacKenzie said. “I would imagine the arguments would continue to be relevant regardless of how the cases take shape over the next couple of months.”

In addition to this amicus brief, the clinic is helping conduct research for the ACLU’s arguments in the New York case, according to MacKenzie. Torrey said the clinic is also working on a brief for an immigration-related case before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

—Staff writer Jamie D. Halper can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @JamieDHalper.

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