This course will explore the evolution of both international and domestic legal protections for individuals fleeing persecution in their countries of origin. Starting in the international realm, students will study the development of the definition of a refugee and the norm of "non-refoulement," which prohibits the forcible return of individuals to countries in which their lives or freedom would be threatened. In discussing the form and content of international refugee protections, students will be asked to examine the fundamental inter-relationship between human rights law and refugee law. They will also address the potential conflict which exists between the principle of national sovereignty and the capacity of the international community to meaningfully prevent or respond to state repression.
The course will then examine the incorporation of international refugee law into U.S. law and policy, beginning with the interpretation by U.S. courts of the refugee definition, based upon the "well-founded fear of persecution." Students will also study more recent federal court decisions which analyze emergent issues in U.S. asylum jurisprudence, including conscientious objection to forced military service as a basis for asylum, as well as gender-related forms of persecution.