Latin American Immigration, Asylum, and Representation Focus of 2017 Greenleaf Conference

March 3, 2017

Latin American Immigration, Asylum, and Representation Focus of 2017 Greenleaf Conference

Image: Photograph adapted and reprinted via CC © from Philipp Haegi.

On April 14-15, 2017, the LAII will hold its annual Greenleaf Conference on Latin America. This year, the conference focuses on Latin American immigration, asylum, and representation, and emphasizes the need for effective representation in asylum cases. Presentations will take place in the UNM Student Union Building (Lobo A & B) and are free and open to the public. For more information, including details for how to register, please visit the conference website.

The two-day conference will pull together attorneys and academics engaged in these issues in order to expand the network of trained expert witnesses available to attorneys and to strengthen best practices in the creation of country condition affidavits. Panel presentations will address technical and academic subjects critical to asylum work, as well as explore policy and political conditions for asylum work. Presenters combine academics and attorneys from New Mexico and beyond.

Latin American migration to the United States, long a strategy for political exile and economic survival in the US-Mexico border region, has in recent decades diversified with respect to region of origin, US destination, and motivations for migration. As demonstrated by the recent surge in Central American immigration - particularly the large numbers of unaccompanied minors and women with small children - the US immigration system has all but completely broken down under the highly-politicized, under-resourced, and privatized detention-deportation system that now characterizes the treatment of undocumented migrants. Even the small proportion of migrants who are actually granted the right to an asylum hearing have great difficulty in obtaining experienced legal representation and competent expert testimony to support their claims, particularly when these include domestic and sexual violence, repression due to sexual orientation or gender identity, and gang violence.

In response to the fundamental barrier to effective asylum representation posed by the dearth of experienced attorneys, the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS) at Hastings Law School (UC San Francisco) and the American Immigrant Lawyers Association (AILA) are working to create a network of experienced attorneys and expert witnesses, particularly for cases involving domestic violence, sexual violence, and mother-child asylum. Attorneys require additional training in the realities of Latin American society in order to coordinate and direct adequate defenses for asylum seekers. Likewise, US scholars, journalists, and others normally tapped for expert witness testimony can benefit from greater access to asylum networks, resources, and witness training. In light of the growing backlog of such cases, systematic communication among all participants - clients, asylum attorneys, expert witnesses, donors, and corporate pro-bono lawyers - has also become an urgent necessity.

Convened by the LAII as the fourth Richard E. Greenleaf Symposium on Latin American Studies, this conference is held in honor of Dr. Richard E. Greenleaf. A distinguished scholar of colonial Latin America, Dr. Greenleaf (1930-2012) had an extensive career in teaching, research, and service at The University of New Mexico and beyond.

The conference is organized under the leadership of Dr. Kimberly Gauderman and Dr. Elizabeth Hutchison of the UNM Department of History.