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Asylum and Convention Against Torture Appellate Clinic

Students in the Asylum and Convention Against Torture Appellate Clinic work in litigation teams to represent immigrants in their appeals or habeas petitions before the Board of Immigration Appeals or federal courts. Clients have included domestic violence victims, transgender individuals, child soldiers, political activists, and mentally challenged detainees.

Student Experience

Clinic students develop a deep understanding of the complex law governing immigration relief. Students also acquire practical skills, including advanced persuasive writing techniques and cross-cultural client communication.

Clinic students do the following:

  • Review transcripts of hearings before an immigration judge
  • Analyze decisions by immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals for errors
  • Interview the client (often using interpreters)
  • Unearth new facts about the client’s case
  • Research domestic and international law and country conditions
  • Develop a theory of the appeal
  • Draft substantive and procedural motions in the Board of Immigration Appeals and federal court
  • Assist with obtaining release for detained clients
  • Draft an appellate opening brief with teammates

The Asylum and Convention Against Torture Appellate Clinic is part of the Law School’s Migration and Human Rights Program.

Current students can learn more about the clinic experience and participant selection on the current student community website.

Case Examples

Student Testimonials

“This clinic gave me the opportunity to build practical skills in a high stakes legal context.  Professors Yale-Loehr and McKee provided excellent structure and guidance but allowed us to take our own initiatives in crafting the strongest possible appellate brief on behalf of our client.”

“Without a doubt, this clinic has been one of the most challenging research and writing experiences in law school. We have developed our appellate advocacy skills and learned the intricate workings of immigration law. The most important skill we’ve learned is to put our client first…knowing that our client’s life hung in the balance, it was our job to write a brief that was legally sound, but that still managed to tell our client’s story.”

“Our client is filled with so much hope. This fight for her asylum status is one of the most important fights in her life…not getting asylum, withholding or CAT threatens to send her back to Somalia. Yet speaking to her on the phone, she is filled with graciousness and gratitude. “Thank you, thank you,” she repeats. “Just one thing,” she will say apologetically, before asking about the likely outcomes of her case.

“Especially where there are numerous issues informing each other in one case, I had to learn to organize, balance and think critically about where each fact belonged. Working on this case has been a test of sifting through various bits to tell our client’s story in a manner that will get him relief…fulfilling my role as an advocate for my client and a writer for an objective (though this term now seems generous) reader at the BIA. These are surely skills that I will carry with me throughout my career and skills whose utilization I hope have presently gained my client relief.”

Contact Clinic Faculty

Estelle McKee
Clinical Professor of Law (Lawyering)
(607) 255-5135
Cornell Law School
G20A Myron Taylor Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901

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