Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

Students enrolled in the Crimmigration Clinic at Harvard Law School engaged in cutting-edge research and immersed themselves in legal proceedings at the intersection of criminal and immigration law. The four students enrolled in this Clinic were constantly occupied in this evolving field, partaking in mock arguments of appellate court cases and going to immigration court to observe hearings. The Clinic worked on four main projects this past year, all of which made innovative contributions to the field of Crimmigration.

First, the Crimmigration Clinic worked with criminal defense attorneys in Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Institute  and throughout the country who represent noncitizens in criminal defense proceedings. Since 2010, these attorneys have a constitutional duty to advise their noncitizen clients about the immigration consequences of criminal charges. Crimmigration is a constantly evolving and complex field of law and often criminal defense attorneys need help deciphering immigration consequences. Thus, the Crimmigration Clinic has helped meet that need by working with criminal defense attorneys to ensure their clients receive proper advice.

The second Crimmigration Clinic project was spurred by a 2015 Supreme Court ruling which determined that non-citizens can not be deported if they are convicted of possessing a drug that is on a state drug schedule but not the federal drug schedule. Last year, clinical students mapped out the federal drug schedule since its inception – the first comprehensive list of this kind. This year, the Massachusetts drug schedules were mapped out by the Clinic. This information can now be applied in retrospect to prevent the deportation of noncitizens when a mismatch between state and federal drug schedules is evident.

The third project entailed conducting a survey of federal cases that interpreted the “particularly serious crime” bar to asylum and withholding of removal in the United States. This survey divided offenses by different categories (property, drug, violence, etc.) and will hopefully provide a more consistent framework for Crimmigration rulings in the future.

The Crimmigration Clinic also works with vulnerable populations in immigration detention facilities to ensure they receive appropriate protections. For example, a recent study found that at any given time there are 75 transgender women in immigration detention facilities, and many of them will experience some form of sexual assault. This year, Clinical students drafted a memorandum outlining the myriad of claims an individual could potentially bring against the federal government to seek recourse for abusive practices at a detention facility.

Crimmigration Clinical students have the unique ability to contribute to an emerging field while helping individuals who find themselves subject to both criminal law and immigration law. By working with local and national practitioners and nonprofit organizations, students make a lasting and crucial impact in this field.