Monthly Archives: March 2012

Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization Diversity & Civic Leadership Program

IRCO’s Diversity & Civic Leadership (DCL) program works closely with immigrant & refugee communities.  Their signature activity is the ENGAGE Diversity & Civic Leadership Training offered annually. Over 90 community members have graduated this program in 2008-2011, educating, organizing, informing, and engaging a new generation of leaders. This year the following sessions are offered:

All Sessions are on Saturdays, 9am-12:30pm.

Crime Prevention (April 7, 2012)


  • Learn about levels and types of adult and juvenile crimes and victimization, as well as the processing of criminal offenses and incarceration in the US.
  • Discuss issues your communities face with crime and disorder, set goals for crime prevention, and identify resources for when crimes occur in your communities.

Emergency Preparedness & Management (May 5, 2012)


  • Learn how governments and non-profits coordinate efforts for emergency preparedness and management.
  • With a presentation by the Red Cross, learn about and identify resources, services, and funding to prepare for and protect your community during emergencies and disasters.

Housing (June 2, 2012)


  • Learn about Rental Assistance and other anti-poverty resources, as well as public housing, and home-forward.
  • Discuss ways to maintain good relationships with your landlord, and understand your Tenant Rights and Home-Owner Rights.

Please contact the following individuals if you have any questions or need more information:



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European Court of Human Rights Case: Hirsi v. Italy

(This is an updated version of a post that originally appeared on Forced Migration Current Awareness.)

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) recently issued a decision in the case of Hirsi Jamaa and Others v. Italy. The case concerned Somalis and Eritreans who were intercepted at sea by Italian authorities, and then summarily returned to Libya. The Court found, in part, that Italy’s actions had violated the non-refoulement principle. For a summary, read ASIL’s Int’l Law in Brief.  Here is the text of the decision.

For reactions to and commentary on the case, see:

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Conference on Protracted Refugee Crises

Still Waiting for Tomorrow? The Law and Politics of Unresolved Refugee Crises, Boston, MA, 2 April 2012

Co-sponsored by BU Law, the American Society of International Law (ASIL) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), this conference “will address the law and politics of protracted refugee situations. The first part of the conference will focus on the scope and ramifications of such refugee crises on a global basis. The second part will aim at identifying state responses and policies addressing potential solutions to refugee crises.”

For more information, download the postcard.  RSVP by 19 March 2012 using this form.

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New Edition of the UNHCR Handbook

(Cross-posted from Forced Migration Current Awareness)

UNHCR’s Division of International Protection has reissued the Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.

The main difference is that the title has changed: It is now called the Handbook and Guidelines on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status… . The text remains unchanged, but eight Guidelines on International Protection have been included; these “complement and update the Handbook and should be read in combination with it.” In addition, the Annexes have been updated.

A little history from the Foreword: “The Handbook was first issued in September 1979 at the request of Member States of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme. A second edition was released in January 1992, which updated information concerning accessions to the international refugee instruments.”

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Keeping Up with International Refugee Law Research

Legal practitioners who are interested in keeping up to date with international refugee law research and information can do so through the Forced Migration Current Awareness blog.  This free service directs readers to full-text content in the form of:

  • Law review/journal articles: browse “law reviews” for examples
  • Reports/working papers/comments: titles tend to be grouped together in thematic posts (example 1; example 2)
  • Theses/dissertations:  browse “theses” for examples

Bibliographic details for journal articles and books that are not available in full-text can be viewed via the “New Law” list displayed in the sidebar (the information is bookmarked using Diigo).

The blog also alerts readers to new issues of periodicals when they become available; among the regularly monitored titles are:

  • European Journal of Migration and Law
  • Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter
  • Georgetown Immigration Law Journal
  • International Journal of Refugee Law
  • International Review of the Red Cross
  • Journal of Refugee Studies
  • Refuge: Canada’s Periodical on Refugees
  • Refugee Survey Quarterly
  • The Researcher
  • Women’s Asylum News

Finally, the blog posts information about upcoming events and opportunities (browse “events” for examples) as well as other types of web resources (new sites or research tools).

All posts are assigned subject term “labels” which are taken from the International Thesaurus of Refugee Terminology; a complete list of terms used to date is provided in the sidebar on the right.  For example, see what the blog has on “international protecton” and the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (“CSR51“).  Or take a look at coverage of specific issues such as “detention,” “legal representation,” or “right to employment.”

Alternatively, conduct searches to locate references when no adequate subject term exists (e.g., lgbt*) or when two concepts need to be combined (e.g., “human trafficking” nexus).

To stay informed, just sign up to receive notices of new posts via the RSS feed or an email subscription.

Hope you find this service useful!

Elisa Mason
Information Specialist

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The United States’ Unnecessary Immigrant Detention Regime

Would you rather have a hot dog or a lawyer? Would your answer change if you were locked up indefinitely?

The United States currently detains hundreds of thousands of immigrants a year. The ACLU estimates the number of detained immigrants in 2010 at 363,000,[1] and the Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project places the number closer to 400,000.[2]

These immigrants range from individuals caught crossing a border, to individuals already detained in the criminal system, to individuals picked up while waiting for a bus, to individuals pulled over for speeding and asked for proof of their resident status (which is a violation of their rights). Some are predatory sex offenders, others are single mothers. Most are non-violent individuals with no criminal record. Their only commonality is that most of them entered the country without authorization (“most” because there are regularly documented instances of legal residents being swept into detention).

Once detained, they are placed in existing jail and prison facilities, often alongside sentenced criminal offenders. If they are fortunate, they will spend only two weeks in detention: the quickest way out is to immediately concede removability or to have sufficient cash on hand to post bond—an amount set in the thousands of dollars (if posting bond is even an option).

Those who choose to pursue an asylum application or other relief may end up spending years in detention. This is even worse than it sounds. First, there is a good chance the person has done nothing wrong at all. After all, fleeing persecution and seeking asylum in safe host country is a long-recognized civil right, both internationally and domestically. Second, the person may be detained in a county jail for all this time. County jails tend to hold people for short durations. As a result, they may lack exercise facilities or decent food. This author is aware of one asylum applicant who ate little more than hot dogs for over a year while detained in a county jail. Third, while in detention, immigrants are denied a host of basic human rights, such as access to health care, due process, or legal counsel.

Surprising as it may be to some, things were not always this way. Indeed, the United States switched towards a detention-oriented immigration system with the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) in 1996.[3] Prior to IIRIRA, the United States did not utilize detention as a core component of processing unauthorized immigrants.

It seems that some participants in the immigration debate conflate “illegal immigrant” with “dangerous.” If these people were to visit a detained court where immigrants are ordered removed (i.e., deported), they might indeed see some dangerous individuals—those already serving time for violent convictions.

Yet alongside those individuals—who are surprisingly few and far between—they would also see heartbreaking examples of mothers being separated from children, young adults whose parents brought them across the border long before they had any say in the matter, and perhaps respected elderly members of congregations who have supported their communities within the United States for over a dozen years. Are these the types of people we should be detaining for months or years in our jails?

Beyond the (im)morality of this excessive detention, there is an economic cost. Taxpayers pay the government to pay the local jails to house immigrants. As the ACLU reports, the Department of Homeland Security spends an average of $5.5 million every night on detention.[4]

The detention regime currently in place is a dark underbelly to this country’s troubled immigration policy. We all bear the costs through the money spent, jail resources used, families and communities disrupted, and passive sanctioning of a heavy-handed detention-oriented government. Yet none bear higher costs than the individuals who have come here seeking a better life (and perhaps fleeing a more dangerous one elsewhere), and who find themselves picked up at a bus station and locked up, with no access to explanations or lawyers (but plenty of access to hot dogs). As the numbers of detained immigrants continue to rise dramatically, it is long past time to cast a critical eye on the immigrant detention regime in this country.

Joseph C. Hansen
Vice-Chair, ABA International Refugee Law Committee


[1] American Civil Liberties Union, Immigration Detention

[2] Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, FAQ on Federal Immigration Detention,

[3] Pub. L. No. 104-208, Division C, 110 Stat. 3009-546 (1996).

[4] Immigrant Detention, supra note 1.

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