The Quinnipiac Law School wants to educate about refugee policy

By Cliff Nadel

Quinnipiac University’s School of Law held its 2018 Symposium at its ceremonial courtroom on the North Haven Campus on Friday. The school titled the event, “Psychiatric and Epigenetic, Legal, and Public Health Challenges Facing Refugee Children: An Integrated Approach.”

 The 2018 Quinnipiac University Law School Symposium at the ceremonial courtroom at Quinnipiac's North Haven Campus.

The 2018 Quinnipiac University Law School Symposium at the ceremonial courtroom at Quinnipiac's North Haven Campus.

The symposium not only included speakers from Quinnipiac, but also Brown University, Yale University and Integrated Refugee and Immigration Services.

Quinnipiac law and medicine professor W. John Thomas and his colleagues want the Symposium "to initiate a world-wide conversation about the potentially multi-generational consequences of failing to serve the needs of refugee children," said Thomas.

 

 An audience of about fifty people attended the symposium.

An audience of about fifty people attended the symposium.

The presenters led the attendees through the history of the laws pertaining to international refugees. They explained that current laws relating to international refugees were based off of World War II white European international refugees, as opposed to non-western groups that make up the majority of international refugees today. Professor Thomas said how drastically different the Trump administration's refugee policy is compared to past administrations.

“In 2016 we had a limit of 110,000 refugees and according to some actors around the world that was sufficient enough to fulfill our moral obligation and obligation as fellow human beings,” Thomas said.

But according to Thomas, the Trump administration announced a new maximum of only 45,000. 

Thomas also said the United States had a moral responsibility for creating some of the refugee crises that exist today.

 Quinnipiac law and medicine professor W. John Thomas explaining the US's moral responsibilities.

Quinnipiac law and medicine professor W. John Thomas explaining the US's moral responsibilities.

Similarly, Quinnipiac law professor Sheila Hayre discussed the complex issues surrounding immigration and refugee laws. She explained the legal definition of someone who should receive refugee status, as well legal terms associated with refugees. 

 Here is a video of Professor Hayre explaining the legal definition of someone who should receive refugee status. 

 Hayre explaining the differences between Asylum Seekers and Refugees. 

Hayre explaining the differences between Asylum Seekers and Refugees. 

After a short lunch break the second half of the Symposium began with Brown University senior neuroscience student Caleb Brown. He talked about epigenetics, which is the idea that gene expression can be altered by personal experience.

 

 Brown University senior neuroscience student Caleb Brown explaining the relationship between epigenetics and the refugee experience.

Brown University senior neuroscience student Caleb Brown explaining the relationship between epigenetics and the refugee experience.

“If you have these very drastic effects in your genome because of extreme exposure to stress this can also be seen in your progeny,” Brown said.

He also explained refugees could be particularly influenced.

“The extent to which that actually effects how they react to every day life is still being tested, but there are some implications that could effect how your progeny interacts with stressful environments,” Brown said. 

Thomas, whose last two books have been oral history projects, said he thinks that presenting information about refugees in an engaging way is an important tool to help educate people. But it's specifically the stories about people that have the greatest effect.

"I have come to believe that personal narratives are most effective in honestly and accurately presenting information in a form that draws in the viewer/reader/listener," Thomas said. "I urge journalists to seek out personal narratives of refugees to use a stage from which to report their plight."

Thomas and his colleagues have already presented their findings about the challenges facing refugee children in Washington, D.C. and Spain. He has also recruited several experts in relevant fields to write chapters in what will be an edited book about the challenges facing refugee children. Thomas and his colleagues plan to present their findings this summer in Prague and Japan.