The Record Editorial: HLS Needs Immigration Law Professor


The Record applauds the recent hiring season that brings a group of stellar new faculty to campus. Especially important is the hiring of Jody Freeman to fill a long-standing need for an environmental law professor. We can only hope this is part of a larger trend to fill outstanding subject area gaps in the faculty. To this end, we’d like to mention what should be a top priority on the hiring wish list: a tenured immigration law professor.

Harvard’s immigration offerings are in a constant state of uncertainty. The basic immigration course has either been taught by visitors or not at all for many years, leaving students unsure if they will ever be able to study the subject. The Immigration and Refugee Clinic is perpetually overenrolled; Debbie Anker heroically supervises 13 students a semester, but the waitlists are much longer than that. The current state of affairs is that an interested student might go her whole career at HLS unable to take an immigration course or clinical.

Immigration Law, after all, is not Law of Underwater Basketweaving here. (We hear that’s a hot 1L reading group, though.) Immigration law and policy is a pressing and serious area of study, and as important to teach at Harvard as environmental law, legal history, or any of the topics covered by our new tenured faculty. Harvard is missing out on an opportunity to produce great scholarship and involve a wider number of students in this field. And with the majority of America’s population growth coming from immigration and the children of immigrants, the field will only grow in relevance.

This concern is timely for two reasons. For one, this is Hispanic Heritage Month, which if nothing else, is a good time to take stock of our ability to respond to law and policy issues that affect millions of Latinos in this nation and Latin America, as well as immigrants from every other continent.

The second reason is that Dean Elena Kagan’s words in the State of the School address last week seem to affirm the same committment. “We need to expand the faculty because the world of law is expanding,” said Kagan, “and we need to cover everything important that’s happening in it. No other law school has this capacity, and we should treat the fact that we do as a kind of obligation.”

That sounds right to us.

Dean Kagan said last Thursday that we all have a responsibility to invest energy into making HLS a better place. Consider us invested. But in the end, as Kagan also noted, we can’t vet candidates and make hiring decisions. We can, however, climb on our soapbox and say what we’d like to see at HLS, and be grateful that the administration is listening and taking us seriously. So: we’d like to see a tenured immigration law professor.

And these reasons don’t suffice, we appeal to the school’s competitive spirit. Yale has an immigration law professor – Peter Schuck – for a student body a third the size of ours. (Though, to be fair, we hear that our movie screen dwarfs theirs and moistness of our brownies put theirs to shame.)

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