Welch to lead conversation on immigration law

BAR HARBOR — Anna R. Welch will lead a wide-ranging conversation on refugees, migration and immigration law in College of the Atlantic’s McCormick Lecture Hall on Monday, May 28, at 4:10 p.m. The talk is free and open to the public.

Welch, the University of Maine School of Law Sam L. Cohen Refugee and Human Rights Clinical Professor, will discuss such topics as current waves of migration, the potential for migration and displacement due to global climate change, and the shifting legal landscape for immigrants and refugees in the United States. She will also describe her work supervising Maine Law’s Refugee and Human Rights Clinic, where students assist low-income immigrants through a broad range of cases and projects.

“Immigrant rights and safety for refugees are central concerns for me and many other students,” said Jule Schnakenberg ’21. “I look forward to learning from Anna Welch, an immigration lawyer with many years of practical experience in migration rights work around the world.”

Schnakenberg, together with three other COA students, will attend the Fourth Round of Intergovernmental Negotiations on the Global Compact on Migration at United Nations headquarters in New York this May. The students will observe first-hand how states negotiate guidelines for migration and immigration.

The work of Maine Law’s Refugee and Human Rights Clinic targets a critical gap in access to justice: providing direct legal representation and broader advocacy to immigrants and refugees seeking political asylum and similar protections under federal law, while training future attorneys on how to best serve the legal needs of immigrants. Clients include, for example, asylum applicants who have fled human rights abuses in their home countries and are seeking refuge, immigrant survivors of domestic violence, and abandoned or abused children seeking legal status in the U.S.

“Immigration, migration and refugees are extremely important and complex issues today. Their importance will only grow as global climate change creates new waves of climate refugees,” said Ken Cline, COA David Rockefeller Family Chair in Ecosystem Management and Protection.

A Maine native, Welch graduated with honors and highest distinction from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she studied journalism and Spanish. She then went to the Washington College of Law at American University. She graduated summa cum laude, order of the coif, and then went to Peru for a year, beginning in August 2005, as a Fulbright Scholar. In Lima, Welch worked with a nonprofit organization to establish a public water management system in Chosica, one of the shantytowns known in the city as “pueblos jovenes.” She practiced at Portland law firm Verrill Dana from 2006 to 2010.

The event is sponsored by COA’s Thoreau Environmental Leaders Initiative, a project that helps students gain the skills and knowledge needed to be effective advocates for environmental and social justice. The Thoreau Environmental Leaders Initiative is funded by a grant from the Henry David Thoreau Foundation.

The conversation with Welch will be facilitated by COA professor of physics and mathematics David Feldman, one of the co-leaders of the Thoreau Initiative.

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