For students looking to become immigration lawyers, gaining experience in the field is just as important, if not more important, than the learning that takes place in the classroom. The professor at New England Law always on the forefront of groundbreaking immigration work? That would be Professor Dina Francesca Haynes.
Professor Haynes started teaching at New England Law in 2006. Her experience providing direct legal representation to hundreds of asylum seekers and victims of human trafficking, coupled with her many years spent in human rights work, has made her the perfect mentor to lead New England Law’s Immigration Law Certificate Program. When she’s not in the classroom, she’s out in the field volunteering and forming relationships, and when she's able to, she's taking students along for the ride.
Writing emergency appeal briefs in Dilley, TX
In 2016, Haynes spent some time volunteering at a Family Residential Center in Dilley, TX. Her work there was the jumping-off point for a project she took on with eight NELB students as a part of New England Law’s Human Rights and Immigration Law Project. The group was tasked with preparing emergency appeal briefs for asylum seekers detained at Dilley, as well as in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Together they wrote more than 100 briefs over the course of that year. The reputation the group established with the center has stuck, and since then Professor Haynes has been able to send six additional NELB students to work with the ABA sponsored pro bono organization running the project.
Fighting travel bans stateside
When the Trump Travel Ban (often referred to as the Muslim Ban) went into effect in 2017, Haynes and her students were immediately on the frontlines ready to provide assistance. The team, consisting of Haynes and ten of her students, worked with lawyers in Amsterdam and Frankfurt to reroute and defend nearly 100 students (from all around the world) who were stuck in airports for days after the ban came down. They received formal thanks from two universities whose students were impacted by the ban.
Providing legal representation between California and Tijuana
In 2018, at the border crossing between San Diego and Tijuana, Haynes spent her winter break training lawyers and providing direct legal representation to asylum seekers. While there she also helped to develop a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) to train lawyers open to taking asylum cases to increase the area’s representation resources. As a result of her efforts, she’s been able to set up positions for four students (three of which worked remotely during the pandemic) to volunteer there with Al Otro Lado, a bi-national organization that provides cross-border legal services and humanitarian aid to refugees, deportees, separated families, and other migrants. Since then our student affinity groups have hosted numerous events related to that border work.
Drafting legal strategies and training international lawyers in Greece
During the Summer of 2019, Haynes’ travels brought her to Moria Refugee Camp on the island of Lesvos in Greece. In Greece she trained lawyers in refugee and asylum law practice, and also provided direct legal representation to refugees from Afghanistan, Syria, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. Thereafter, students came into the mix to assist her with rewriting the law manual of two legal service organizations working on the island, and obtaining a special immigrant visa for one of the refugees there.
Right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Haynes was excited to arrange for one of her students to work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Even though the pandemic threw a wrench in those plans, Haynes looks forward to connecting students to the organization once it’s safe to travel again. She said, “I hope to keep the relationship and possibility alive for future students. Most of the pro bono work I do is devised to keep relationships alive in order to create employment and experiential learning opportunities for my students.”
Today, Haynes continues to volunteer her time and form relationships with the people and organizations that she works with. And it's paid off. A significant number of our graduates are employed in immigration law, often due in no small part to the skills they’ve gained through their work and studies with Professor Haynes. For more information on her past projects, to learn about what she’s up to right now, or to find out how to get involved, interested parties can contact Professor Haynes.