Elon Law immigration clinic undergoes leadership change

When Assistant Professor Heather Scavone steps down from Elon Law in October for a legal position in the federal government, Katherine Reynolds, Elon Law’s Clinical Practitioner in Residence, will serve as interim director of the Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic.

After eight years of teaching Elon Law students and helping thousands of clients from across North Carolina, the director of Elon Law’s Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic is stepping down.

Assistant Professor Heather Scavone has announced her resignation from Elon Law effective October 5, 2018, after which she will move to Washington, D.C., to serve as associate counsel in the Refugee Asylum Law Division of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Office of the Chief Counsel.

Katherine Reynolds, Elon Law’s Clinical Practitioner in Residence since 2017, will serve as interim director.

“We know this new challenge represents a unique opportunity to expand on Professor Scavone’s exemplary record at Elon Law educating students while building a nationally recognized program,” said Elon Law Dean Luke Bierman. “And we know that the HILC under Professor Reynolds will continue in good hands, educating our students while representing asylum seekers and immigrant families.” 

The Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic located at 210 West Friendly Avenue in downtown Greensboro is a year-round, in-house, live-client clinic at Elon Law. Established in December 2010, the HILC allows students, under the supervision of law faculty, to provide free immigration legal services to low-income refugees and asylum seekers in North Carolina.

Elon Law students have represented individuals from more than 50 different countries and spanning four different continents. Among the most common types of cases undertaken by the HILC are asylum, humanitarian parole, refugee family reunification and United States citizenship.

Case selection is generally limited to individuals who have suffered or will suffer from persecution in their home countries on account of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group; as well as individuals who have worked on behalf of the U.S. armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

More than 2,500 clients have been served in eight years, with Elon Law students and faculty contributing to nearly 200 family reunifications.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association presented Elon Law with a “Pro Bono Champion” award in Las Vegas at the association’s 2016 annual conference, which was attended by many hundreds of immigration attorneys from across the country. The award is given annually to an individual or organization that has made notable pro bono contributions in the area of federal immigration law.

“It has been an incredible privilege to spend the past eight years mentoring Elon Law students in the Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic,” Scavone said. “It has also been enormously satisfying to watch the clinic grow into a nationally recognized program that simultaneously broadens the global perspectives of law students, increases their post-graduation employment prospects, and serves the community in high volume.

“Working with law students in this capacity has given me enormous personal and professional gratification over the past eight years and I will be forever grateful for my time at Elon Law.”

Reynolds, the clinic’s interim director, joined the Elon Law faculty in 2017, having coordinated the Immigration Legal Services Program at Church World Service, a refugee resettlement agency. From 2012 to 2015, she worked in the Refugee Legal Aid Program of St. Andrew’s Refugee Services in Cairo, Egypt, serving as director in her final year.

Reynolds earned her J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law where she was selected to be in the first class of the Law and Public Service Program. From 2006-2008, she served with the U.S. Peace Corps in Kazakhstan.

“Since its inception, the Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic has been instrumental in reuniting families of refugees and asylees in the Triad,” Reynolds said. “Professor Scavone’s advocacy for this program has been invaluable not only to these families, but also to her colleagues across the country with whom she shared her knowledge and passion.

“I share her zeal in providing quality legal services to refugees and asylum-seekers, as well as a dedication to creating a collaborative learning environment for Elon Law students, and I look forward to continuing the HILC’s tradition of excellence in experiential education.”