The Pace International Law Review was afforded the opportunity to ask Dr. Roni Amit a few questions before welcoming her to speak at our symposium, Revisiting Human Rights: The Universal Declaration at 70, in a discussion titled, “The (Ir)Relevance of Law in Refugee Protection.”
Q: What drew you to pursuing a career in your current field?
A: I have always been drawn to issues of justice. After doing a PhD that focused on the use of international human rights law in domestic courts, I decided I wanted to be more directly engaged in human rights advocacy. I began working on refugee issues while I was in law school, and spent my two law school summers working with Lawyers for Human Rights in South Africa.
Q: Have you traveled to other countries in pursuit of your work?
A: I spent a year in Israel researching Palestinian human rights claims in the Israeli Supreme Court. And I spent almost 8 years doing refugee rights work in South Africa during the time that it was the top recipient of asylum seekers in the world.
Q: Tell us about a way you have helped clients facing removal proceedings.
A: There is no right to court-appointed counsel in immigration proceedings, despite the complicated nature of the law and the life and death consequences. It is also getting harder to prevail in removal proceedings. In this environment, it is important for individuals to have someone guiding them through the process. Even when you don’t win their cases, clients are grateful that someone was fighting for them and giving them a voice. More concretely, I have helped clients get released from detention on bond, have gotten removal decisions reopened for new adjudications, and have even helped clients after they were removed to obtain medical care and get reunited with family.
Q: What area of your work do you feel needs more focus than it is currently getting?
A: There is so much wrong with the current immigration and asylum system, starting with the levels of misinformation about the migrants coming to our country, their reasons for fleeing, and their contributions to our country. Additionally, a lot of extra-legal practices are happening out of public view by DHS officials working for ICE and CBP. Due process has been significantly eroded in the immigration courts, which are facing extreme backlogs. As a result, asylum seeker and immigrant rights are being violated with impunity.
Dr. Roni Amit is a human rights lawyer whose research focuses on rights protection in the asylum, immigration, and detention context. She is currently a clinical fellow with the Deportation Defense Clinic at Hofstra Law School. She previously worked as a Senior Researcher with the African Centre for Migration & Society at the University of the Witwatersrand and as a research and strategic litigation fellow with the refugee rights clinic at Lawyers for Human Rights in Johannesburg. Dr. Amit has a PhD in political science from the University of Washington and a JD from New York University.