SMNR: Refugee Law & Policy

Course Information

Registration Information

Meeting Times

Day Time Location
WED 3:45 - 5:35 pm TNH 3.126

Evaluation Method

Type Date Time Location


This writing seminar will examine international and domestic refugee law and policy. Drawing on international and comparative jurisprudence, as well as United States law, the course situates refugee law in its global context and equips students to undertake both sophisticated legal analysis and advocacy in this field. The seminar will trace the development of the U.N. Refugee Convention and U.S. asylum law, including the Refugee Act of 1980. Students will discuss the institutional frameworks for making refugee claims and will consider the roles of key actors, such as the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Students in the seminar will discuss the refugee definition and the grounds of eligibility for protection (race, religion, nationality, political opinion and social group) that are applicable worldwide, with a special emphasis on cutting-edge claims involving gang violence and gender-based harm. Students will also assess legal and institutional efforts to respond to the situation of displaced persons in need of protection who do not fit within the refugee definition. Finally, students will consider policies and practices regarding detention of applicants for protection and integration of refugees into the socio-economic fabric of their host countries. Throughout the semester, we will examine the tensions that may exist in the refugee protection arena. We will consider how advocates, policymakers and adjudicators balance legal and moral obligations to refugees with concerns about mass immigration, national security, transnational crime, and the possibility of harboring individuals who were persecutors themselves. Students' grades for the course will be based upon class participation and completion of a final seminar paper (minimum 25 double-spaced pages, inclusive of footnotes) as well as several shorter reflection papers (minimum 2-3 pages) assigned throughout the semester. The final portion of the semester's class meetings will be devoted to student presentations of their seminar papers.