Clinic students secure asylum for indigenous survivors of persecution

2 min read

Last month, as an historic trial continued in Guatemala against a former dictator charged with the genocide of indigenous Mayans, Lauren Herman ’13—a student in the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic (HIRC) —stood in court in Boston as a judge announced he was granting asylum to her Mayan client, who, with his family, had suffered persecution for decades before he came to the U.S. in 2009.

“I think it was the most meaningful thing I’ve done in law school,” says Herman, who, under the guidance of John Willshire Carrera, co-managing director of HIRC at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) and an expert in asylum work, helped prepare the client to testify about the abuse he and his family endured in Guatemala, and the danger he would face should he be forced to return. “It felt like an awesome responsibility that he put his faith in us that we could help him tell his story,” says Herman.

For Willshire Carrera, who holds a joint appointment with HIRC and GBLS and has instructed hundreds of Harvard Law students in immigration and refugee work, the case marked the 35th or so successful asylum petition by the clinic on behalf of Mayans from Guatemala since 2007, when a large group was arrested in a raid by federal officials at a textile factory in New Bedford, Mass.

Read the full story on the Harvard Law School website.