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Peter Spiro  | Jaya Ramji-Nogales

'Visualizing Urgency': Insitute Co-Director Jaya Ramji-Nogales to Speak on History of Refugee Law

The Institute for International Law and Public Policy Co-Director Jaya Ramji-Nogales will be speaking on the history of refugee law on Wednesday, October 1, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Tyler School of Art (Temple Contemporary, RM 110).  The event, part of a Tyler course called “Visualizing Urgency,” is open to the public.

“Visualizing Urgency” focuses on the contemporary global refugee crisis through in depth conversations with refugees living in Philadelphia, refugee camp architecture, and an exploratory workshop of alternative approaches to this crisis through government agencies and NGOs.

A range of speakers representing growing refugee communities including Laotians, Indonesians, Liberians, and Mexicans will teach Visual Urgency from their first hand experiences.  This course also includes refugee-led cooking demonstrations with plants grown to suit refugee diets, a soccer match played between teams of Liberian refugees, as well as poetry readings and artworks representing the contemporary refugee experience. Through these group discussions, visiting speakers, and interpreting art, students will learn the interplay between visual culture and political, economic, and social issues on both a local and global level.

Instructors Sarah Biemiller and Robert Blackson have a combined history of more than 20 years organizing educational cultural programming.  Most recently they have managed the community-led art project Funeral for a Home, and the citywide conservation project Restoring Ideals that restored objects emblematic of underserved communities across Philadelphia.


Institute Co-sponsors Dean's Invitational Forum

The Institute for International Law and Public Policy will co-sponsor the Dean's Invitational Forum and luncheon on Monday, September 22 from 11:45 am to 1:00 pm in Shusterman Hall. Our guest speaker will be Nancy Updike, an award-winning and internationally recognized public radio and television producer and writer, who will be speaking about her international experiences and about the power of storytelling.

Ms. Updike is one of the founding producers of the public radio show This American Life. Her work has also been featured on other radio programs like All Things Considered and has been published in The New York Times Magazine, LA Weekly, The Boston Globe and salon.com. She won a Peabody Award in 1996 for her work as a producer on This American Life. Her hour-long Iraq documentary, "I'm From the Private Sector, and I'm Here to Help," won the Edward R. Murrow Award for best news documentary (2005) and the Scripps-Howard National Journalism Award in radio (2004). She was nominated for an Emmy award for a story she produced during the first season of the television version of This American Life.

Since lunch will be provided, those who wish to attend need to RSVP to reserve a seat. Please go to www.mytlawconnection.com/deansforumfall14 to reserve your seat at your earliest convenience, and no later than September 18. Seating will be limited.

Are Some Asylum Seekers More Equal Than Others?
Book Panel Offers Findings, Recommendations for Adjudication

Does it matter whether an applicant for asylum brings their children with them to their Department of Homeland Security interview? Legally speaking, not at all. But asylum officers are only human: It turns out applicants who bring their dependents are granted asylum 18 percent more often than those who don't.
Results like these were highlighted during Monday's panel discussion on Institute Co-Director Jaya Ramji-Nogales' new book, Lives in the Balance: Asylum Adjudication by the Department of Homeland Security (NYU Press). Following up their 2009 work Refugee Roulette, Professor Ramji-Nogales and her co-authors Professors Andrew Schoenholtz and Philip Schrag of Georgetown University Law Center examined nearly 400,000 cases for asylum over 14 years, looking at how adjudications were affected by various "unofficial" factors. A few of their findings:
•        Applicants who had a representative at the hearing received asylum half of the time, compared to 42 percent of the time for those representing themselves. However, if the officer had a JD degree, it didn't matter whether the applicant had a representative or not. The authors suggested it may be that their "law school training kicks in" and they are more likely to investigate a pro se applicant's case in greater depth.
•        The least likely candidate for asylum would be an unrepresented male who entered the country "uninspected" (sans visa), with no dependents. This cohort received asylum only 29 percent of the time. The authors said that when they presented this finding to DHS officers, some offered theories on why: Such men, they said, are thought more likely to be economic migrants, or even terrorists.
•        Among the regional offices, San Francisco and Los Angeles had some of the highest grant rates, while Chicago and Houston had the lowest. In general, western offices had higher grant rates than their East-Coast counterparts. Said Ramji-Nogales, "I'm from the West Coast, so I like to say it's because we're generally happier and nicer out there."

The authors closed with three policy recommendations: (1) require all future asylum officers to have JDs; (2) give free representatives to indigent applicants, especially unaccompanied minors and those with mental disabilities; and (3) reduce the volume of cases per officer so that they can spend more time on an individual case. Currently, the average is 3.5 hours per case, including security checks -- not nearly enough when there are lives in the balance.