Attorneys, Professors, and Students Come Together for Second Annual Fourth Circuit Asylum Law Conference

On Friday, March 10th, attorneys, professors, and students from across the country gathered on Zoom for the second annual Fourth Circuit Asylum Law Conference. The Conference brought attorneys from all practice areas and backgrounds to learn about recent developments in asylum law and policy, best practices at the Arlington Asylum Office, and fundamentals of appeals to the Board of Immigration Appeals. The Conference was cosponsored by the Immigration Clinic and Immigrant Justice Corps. 

The Conference began with a discussion on recent developments in asylum law in the Fourth Circuit. Steven Schulman, Pro Bono Partner at Akin Gump, Professor Katherine Evans, Director of Duke’s Immigrant Rights Clinic, and Anam Rahman spoke about recent asylum decisions in the Fourth Circuit and the direction of the court’s decisions. Immigration Clinic Alum Gabby Vance, J.D. ‘21, moderated the discussion. The panelists discussed several recent Fourth Circuit cases, including Portillo Flores v. Garland, which one of the speakers called a “master class” in Fourth Circuit caselaw. The panelists also discussed asylum in cases of gender-based violence and the importance of recognizing gender as a protected ground. 

Next, the focus of the Conference shifted to fundamentals of appeals before the Board of Immigration Appeals. Ofelia Calderon of Calderon Seguin built on her comments in last year’s Conference to discuss appeals before the Board of Immigration Appeals. In addition to speaking about the procedures for appeals, she also discussed the importance of preserving the record for appeal and strategies to preserve the record at the individual hearing. 

Then, the Conference turned to a topic of growing importance: burnout among attorneys. Professor Lindsay Harris recently co-authored an article on rates of burnout among attorneys working on asylum cases. Professor Harris’s study was the largest study of attorneys to date. In her presentation, moderated by Sarah Meredith of the Virginia State Bar’s Immigrant Outreach Committee, Professor Harris discussed the reasons many asylum attorneys may be feeling burnt out, as well as ways to prevent and combat feelings of burnout, including methods for self-care and team care in law school and firm settings. 

After lunch, the next panel focused on best practices at the Asylum Office. This panel has become even more important as more attorneys volunteer to take on asylum cases for people fleeing violence in Afghanistan and Ukraine. Shayan Davoudi from HIAS and Emily McCabe of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Immigration shared their experiences over the last year before Arlington’s Asylum Office. The discussion focused on the differences between asylum interviews and hearings in immigration court, including how to develop the record and preserve the record should the case need to be appealed. The panelists also discussed the timeframe for decisions in Afghan asylum cases, and the challenges that the asylum backlog has created. 

Finally, the Conference ended with a primer on representing unaccompanied minors, presented by Teresa Lee, Managing Attorney at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). Ms. Lee gave an overview of the policies and procedures that affect unaccompanied minors, including how unaccompanied minors are processed at the border, and how this is different for unaccompanied Afghan minors. She also discussed important caselaw, including Portillo Flores v. Garland, which was discussed earlier in the day, and how to frame asylum cases for children. She ended her presentation by discussing the importance of access to counsel for unaccompanied minors. 

The Immigration Clinic would like to thank our incredible speakers, who are all listed below. We would also like to thank our cosponsor, Immigrant Justice Corps, for their support of this program. 

Fourth Circuit Asylum Conference Speakers 

  • Developments in Fourth Circuit Case Law 
    • Anam Rahman, Esq., Calderon Seguin, PLLC 
    • Katherine Evans, Esq., Duke University Law School 
    • Steven H. Schulman, Esq., Akin Gump Straus Hauer & Feld LLP 
    • Moderator: Gabby Vance, K&L Gates LLP 
  • Appealing a Denial in Immigration Court 
    • Ofelia Calderon, Esq., Calderon Seguin, PLLC 
  • Attorney Burnout in Asylum Cases 
    • Lindsay Harris, Esq., University of the District of Columbia School of Law  
    • Moderator: Sarah Meredith, Virginia State Bar Immigrant Outreach Committee 
  • Country Conditions: From Page to Practice 
    • Emily McCabe, Esq., American Bar Association 
    • Shayan Davoudi, Esq., HIAS 
    • Moderator: J. Nicole Medved, Esq., William & Mary Law School 
  • A Primer on Representing Unaccompanied Minors 
    • Teresa S. Lee, Esq., Kids in Need of Defense