Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bernstein Symposium April 2-3 Looks At Immigration Policy

Discussion of immigration policy in the United States raises a host of complex moral and legal issues. Are we morally obligated to open a path to citizenship for people who have long been members of our community? Is it moral hypocrisy to create a legal regime of exclusion even as we depend upon the availability of cheap immigrant labor? What is the role of local communities in recognizing immigrants and enforcing immigration restrictions? And what priority should any discussion of immigration reform have in a period beset by multiple crises?

These are some of the questions to be considered at the Robert L. Bernstein International Human Rights Fellowship Symposium taking place Thursday, April 2, and Friday, April 3, at Yale Law School. The symposium is titled “Beyond Borders: Immigration Policy in the New Century” and is free and open to the public.

It begins Thursday at 4:30 p.m. with a panel discussion titled “The Morality of Borders.” Panelists will consider, among other things, whether there should still be limitations on immigration even if there is no adequate moral justification for a closed border.

Friday morning, the three current Bernstein Fellows will talk about their work. Kristina Scurry Baehr ’08 is working with the Carter Center in Liberia to launch a Gender Crimes Prosecution Unit. Alisha Bjerregaard ’08 is working with the Center for Reproductive Rights on a documentation and advocacy project to support proposed legislative and other efforts to improve reproductive health services in Kenya. And Matiangai Sirleaf ’08 is working for the International Center for Transitional Justice in Cape Town, South Africa, on a series of transitional justice initiatives in western and southern Africa.

Friday afternoon will feature two more panel discussions—the first, “A U.S. Immigration Policy Reform Agenda for the Obama Administration,” and the second, “Local Responses to Immigration and National Immigration Policy.”

The symposium concludes at 5:30 p.m. Friday with a reception and introduction of the 2009-2010 Bernstein Fellows—Tendayi Achiume ’08, Katherine Wiltenburg Todrys ’07, and Stratos Pahis ’09. Tendayi Achiume will spend her fellowship year working with Lawyers for Human Rights in Johannesburg to produce a report documenting South Africa’s treatment of Zimbabwean refugees and immigrants and offering recommendations for much-needed reform. Katherine Wiltenburg Todrys will work with Human Rights Watch’s Health and Human Rights Program, researching human rights violations associated with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis transmission and treatment in prisons in southern Africa. The findings will be translated into a report published by Human Rights Watch with recommendations to governments and international agencies and donors. And Stratos Pahis will work with the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva on their Business and Human Rights Project.

The Bernstein Symposium is sponsored by the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School. For more information, contact Barbara Mianzo at 203-432-7480. 

The Robert L. Bernstein Fellowships in International Human Rights were established in 1997 to honor Robert Bernstein, the founding chair of Human Rights Watch and former chair, president and CEO of Random House. The fellowships enable three Yale Law School graduates to devote a year to full-time human rights work.