U of A Law Professor Discusses Asylum Work at the Supreme Court of Argentina

McGowan and Spinsanti with officials from the court's Special Immigration Secretariat
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McGowan and Spinsanti with officials from the court's Special Immigration Secretariat

On Dec. 28, 2023, Amelia S. McGowan, assistant professor of law and director of the U of A School of Law Immigration Clinic, and Leonardo Spinsanti, adviser of the Inter-American Bar Association and director of the Spinsanti and Associates Law Firm, met with officials at the Supreme Court of Argentina in Buenos Aires to discuss their work on a comparative asylum law project.

McGowan and Spinsanti are members of the Right of Asylum Working Group of the Law Societies' Compact & Forum for SDG 16 — a joint initiative by the Inter-American Bar Association, French National Bar Council and the American Bar Association to develop a comparative research project on access to justice for asylum seekers throughout the Americas, focusing on Argentina, the United States, Mexico and Colombia. Following their research, the group will assess the effectiveness of the right to asylum in the target countries, identify best practices for asylum lawyers and facilitate the exchange of information. McGowan participates in the working group through her role as a commissioner on the American Bar Association's Commission on Immigration.

In addition to discussing the research project, the group also discussed successes and challenges in both the U.S. and Argentine asylum systems. Both countries serve as top destinations for asylum seekers in the Americas. Noting strengths and weaknesses in both systems, the group discussed opportunities to improve legal assistance for groups in especially vulnerable positions in both countries.

"This meeting highlighted the tremendous importance of international collaboration in asylum work," McGowan said. "Sharing ideas, lessons learned and support with Argentinian colleagues was an invaluable experience. Argentina's innovative approaches to increasing access to justice for migrants and asylum seekers have certainly inspired me, and I hope this is just the beginning of many more opportunities to learn and work together."

Spinsanti agreed. "Meeting with judicial officials from the Special Immigration Secretariat of the Supreme Court revealed the difficulties that lawyers in both countries face in ensuring legal protections for vulnerable populations. They have provided us with key information, opened the doors to work together and have demonstrated a special interest in the University of Arkansas' work with migrants and asylum seekers. Getting to know each other and sharing experiences will undoubtedly be beneficial for continually improving legal representation."

About the University of Arkansas School of Law: The law school offers a competitive J.D. and is home to the nation's first LL.M. program in agriculture and food law. Led by nationally recognized faculty, the school offers students pro bono work, live client clinics, public service fellowships, competitions, and much more. Students also benefit from our location in one of the fastest growing, most livable, and economically vibrant regions in the U.S., and from our corporate externship partnerships with Fortune 500 companies. Our alumni have gone on to become judges, senators, and governors, and we serve communities throughout our state and nation through programs such as the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative. Our longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion is exemplified by the Six Pioneers, the first Black students to attend law school in the South. Follow us at @uarklaw.


Erin Feller, director of development and external relations
School of Law
479-575-3468, feller@uark.edu


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