Latin American and Latinx Studies Symposium

Keynote Speaker

Lauren Gilbert

Lauren Gilbert

Professor of Law,  St. Thomas University

The Right to Seek Asylum: A View from the Field

Lauren Gilbert, Professor of Law, St. Thomas University School of Law

Professor Gilbert and a team of law students spent the week of July 29 – August 3, 2018, at the Karnes family detention center, in Karnes City, Texas, working alongside RAICES, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, an immigration nonprofit with offices throughout Texas. This was Professor Gilbert’s third trip to Karnes.  The first two times, she and her students worked with women and children asylum seekers seeking release from detention.  The third time they worked with recently reunited fathers and children who had been victims of the government’s family separation policy.  Professor Gilbert will describe the consequences of the Trump Administration’s immigration policies on the lives of asylum seekers at the U.S. southern border, who have been most directly imperiled.  She will also describe the response of the advocacy community, some of the major legal battles, and the challenges that lie ahead. 


Professor Gilbert teaches Constitutional Law, Immigration Law and Family Law at St. Thomas University School of Law.   She is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Michigan School of Law. She has been working on human rights issues in Latin America since she was a college student.  She was as an intern with the Washington Office on Latin America and later did field research in Argentina for her college senior thesis.  In law school, she successfully represented her first asylum seekers from El Salvador and Honduras.   She started off as an associate with the law firm of Arnold & Porter in Washington, D.C. from 1988-1991 during which time she served as an election monitor in Santiago, Chile in 1989 for the International Human Rights Law Group and represented Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela on a number of international trade law issues.   She was a Fulbright Lecturer in Law in Costa Rica in 1991, where she taught international trade law, a researcher for the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights from 1991-1992, an attorney-investigator for the United Nations Truth Commission for El Salvador from 1992-1993, the Director of the Women and International Law Program at American University’s Washington College of Law from 1994-1998, and a legal services attorney from 1998 until 2002, before joining the law faculty at St. Thomas in May 2002.  She has published widely in the area of women’s and immigrants’ rights, federalism, and separation of powers.  Her book chapter, “Gender Violence, State Action, and Power and Control in the Northern Triangle,” is the final chapter in From Extraction to Emancipation: Development Reimagined (ABA 2018, forthcoming).  Over the last few years, Professor Gilbert and her students have engaged in a variety of service learning projects, including three trips to work with Central American parents and children at the Karnes Family Detention Center in Karnes City, Texas.      

Rollins College Latin American and Caribbean Studies
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