Legal-Medical Partnerships

CGRS has long partnered with medical and mental health professionals whose expertise is crucial to documenting torture, trauma, and other lasting effects of the persecution experienced by asylum seekers. We also help to connect traumatized refugees to needed therapy or medical treatment.

CGRS has been an innovator and leader in this area. Karen Musalo, CGRS Director, was the first attorney to partner with psychologists in her representation of traumatized asylum seekers. The case involved a young Salvadoran man who fled to the United States after learning that he was sought by the Salvadoran authorities, who had already killed or “disappeared” several of his friends and family members and beaten him. A clinical psychologist evaluated him, and documented that his behavior and symptoms were consistent with the kind of severe trauma he had described. Karen submitted this evaluation as evidence, a practice that has since become standard. Ultimately, her client was granted asylum.

Supporting Asylum Seekers

CGRS works with medical and mental health organizations such as Physicians for Human Rights, HealthRight International, the UCSF-SFGH Trauma Recovery Center and its Survivors International program, the Center for Survivors of Torture, and other torture treatment programs. We train medical and mental health professionals on asylum law and processes to increase their capacity to serve as experts in asylum cases. Our participation in the UCSF-UC Hastings Consortium on Law, Science & Health Policy has facilitated training as well as joint teaching, advocacy, and research.

Impact

CGRS partnered with the medical community in our advocacy campaign in Matter of A-T- . Medical expertise was vital to exposing the flaws in the initial Board of Immigration Appeals decision that denied asylum to a woman who had suffered past female genital cutting. The Board had ignored the serious, long-term medical and psychological consequences of the cutting. Medical and mental health advocates, such as Physicians for Human Rights, joined our campaign to have this decision reversed. They wrote an amicus brief and a letter to the Attorney General, and the decision was ultimately overturned.