Students in the Refugee and Human Rights Clinic (RHRC) have opportunities to collaborate with local nonprofit organizations and community groups on a range of advocacy projects.

Lives in Limbo: How the Boston Asylum Office Fails Asylum Seekers

On March 23, 2022, the Refugee and Human Rights Clinic released a report written by Maine Law students in partnership with the ACLU of Maine and the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project summarizing the results of an investigation into concerning practices at the Boston Asylum Office.

The report finds the practices the Boston Asylum Office uses to process asylum claims violate international and domestic laws. The result is that people fleeing persecution in their home countries are wrongly denied asylum and may ultimately have to wait years for their cases to be resolved. The stakes for asylum seekers are made even higher because of this legal limbo. Their family members abroad remain in danger, and they are separated from their families for years.  All of this compounds stress and trauma on families that have already suffered.
As part of their investigation, RHRC students painstakingly reviewed thousands of pages of documents obtained through our FOIA lawsuit, and they interviewed asylees, asylum seekers, immigration attorneys, and former asylum officers. Download a copy of the report.

Watch Maine Law’s Refugee & Human Rights Clinic: On the Frontlines, Advocating for Change:

Litigation with ACLU of Maine seeking to compel two Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests

Freedom of Information ActThe Refugee and Human Rights Clinic participated in the first of two collaborative projects with the ACLU of Maine in 2018, after RHRC, and with collaborators at the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project (ILAP), contacted the ACLU of Maine because of a notable decrease in affirmative asylum application approvals out of the Boston Asylum Office.  After formulating a plan with the coalition members, RHRC students drafted the FOIA which the ACLU filed with the government.  After no response/compliance from the government, RHRC students worked with the ACLU and ILAP to file a lawsuit in federal court seeking production. That litigation is ongoing.

In the second collaboration with the ACLU and ILAP, RHRC is seeking information pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request to learn more about the proposed ICE facility in Scarborough, Maine. Community opposition and local politicians have stated that ICE’s lease was signed and approved by the Scarborough Town Council without transparency.  As a result, RHRC, ACLU, and ILAP recently filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to compel ICE to provide information about ICE’s specific intentions for this new facility.

First Circuit Impact Litigation

Asylum SeekersRHRC student attorneys partnered with the ACLU of New Hampshire to co-counsel on a Convention Against Torture case before the First Circuit. Student attorneys authored the initial brief.  Moreover, student attorneys drafted two amicus curiae briefs on behalf of immigration professors from across the country filed with the First Circuit Court of Appeals.  In all three cases, RHRC students have delved into technical and complex areas of immigration law in an effort to advocate for asylum-seekers and those seeking to stay in the United States based on the harm and persecution they will face in their home countries.

Self-Help Guide for Asylum Seekers

Self Help Asylum Guide CoverRHRC student attorneys, in collaboration with the Penn State Law in University Park Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, and Thrive International Programs published a comprehensive self-help guide for asylum seekers. This publication FILLED a national need, addressing various postures of asylum-seekers, from individuals applying before the Department of Homeland Security, to individuals before an immigration court, to those in detention.

Intakes and KYR sessions at the Portland Expo

RHRC Students at the Portland ExpoIn response to the large uptick in asylum seekers from Africa entering Maine beginning in June 2019, student attorneys with the Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic assisted the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, an immigration non-profit in Maine, in helping conduct intakes and educational presentations to these newest arrivals. Most of these individuals have been housed temporarily at the Portland Expo and many have been issued Notices to Appear in immigration court but are unfamiliar with U.S. immigration laws and procedures. These trainings are vital in educating these individuals on what to expect and how best to comply with U.S. immigration law.

Student Trips to the Southern Border

Since July 2017, students enrolled in the RHRC have traveled to Laredo, Texas to volunteer in week-long increments with the Laredo Project (a collaboration between Jones Day and the Rio Grande Legal Aid).  Students’ work involves conducting intakes with detained women and assessing their eligibility for relief from deportation. More information about this work can be found on the Maine Law and Press Herald websites.

View a video of a panel presentation on the Laredo Project at the 2018 Student Impact Summit.

Pro Se Asylum Trainings

Sara Cressey and Connor SchratzRHRC student attorneys, along with the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, provide monthly trainings for pro se asylum seekers. At these trainings, student attorneys give asylum seekers  the “How to Apply for Asylum” Manual and also provide them with information on how to navigate the difficult process of applying for asylum.

Pro Se Asylum Video Series

Felix HagenimanaRHRC student attorneys created a series of videos (available in both English and French) based upon the curriculum presented through the monthly pro se asylum trainings. By providing these videos and conducting additional outreach throughout Maine, the RHRC hopes to expand its reach to hundreds of additional asylum seekers.

View the Pro Se Asylum Video Series.

Know Your Rights – Immigrant Outreach Presentations

Joann Bautista '18In response to President Trump’s Executive Order on “Interior Enforcement,” the RHRC undertook an initiative to expand outreach to Maine’s Latino population. Joann Bautista ’18 (pictured left) and Nora Bosworth ’18, student attorneys at the RHRC, organized and ran a Know-Your-Rights presentation entirely in Spanish at Sacred Heart Church in Portland. They were joined on the panel by attorneys from the law firm of Pierce Atwood, immigration attorney Barbara Taylor, and ILAP paralegal Sean Douglas.

Know Your Legal Rights! Immigrant Workers’ Rights in the Workplace

Know Your Legal Rights! RHRC student attorneys researched and developed a series of fact sheets for immigrant workers addressing legal topics of particular importance to them. Included topics are: Wage & Hours Laws; Employment Discrimination; Workers’ Compensation; Health & Safety; Living Conditions; and Sexual Harassment.

Immigration Library at the Cumberland County Jail

Kate Power '14 and Hannah Wurgaft '20 at CCJ Through their work with the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project screening immigrant detainees at the Cumberland County Jail (CCJ), RHRC student attorneys saw that the CCJ had no resources on hand for immigrants relevant to their immigration cases. In response, RHRC student attorneys, along with a Bowdoin College fellow, conducted an extensive community fundraising effort to develop an immigration law library at CCJ. The students reached out to individuals, local law firms, schools, libraries, organizations, and religious institutions for donations. They surpassed their initial donation goals and were able to give the CCJ dozens of print and other resources for immigrants facing possible deportation from the U.S.

Immigrant Youth Resource Guide

(Online Guide)
Immigrant Youth Resource GuideRHRC student attorneys created an online Immigrant Youth Resource Guide, which they then translated into French and Spanish. The Guide provides critical information about resources available to Maine’s immigrant youth ranging from housing, to food, to legal assistance.

Resources for Maine’s Immigrant Youth

(A Brochure)
Resources for Maine's Immigrant YouthRHRC student attorneys produced a brochure summarizing various forms of immigration relief potentially available to Maine’s immigrant youth, including unaccompanied minor children who have fled abuse or persecution in their home countries and are seeking refuge in Maine.

Download the “Resources for Maine’s Immigrant Youth” brochure.

A Guide for Immigrant Victims of Domestic Violence

(A Brochure)
A Guide for Immigrant Victims of Domestic ViolenceRHRC student attorneys created a guide for domestic violence survivors informing them of immigration-related protections potentially available to them.

Download “A Guide for Immigrant Victims of Domestic Violence in ENGLISH, FRENCH, SPANISH.