Karla McKanders is currently a visiting professor and supervising attorney at Howard University School of Law. She is on leave as an associate professor of law at the University of Tennessee where directs the Law School and State of Tennessee’s first Immigration Clinic dedicated to educating law students on immigration and refugee law. Her clinic has successfully focused on representing vulnerable refugee populations, including children who travel to the United States with out a guardian and asylum seekers from Togo, Syria, the Gambia, China, Rwanda, Iraq, Eritrea, Mexico, and Central America. Her focus is on engaged activist research that she brings directly into the classroom and where she challenges her students to directly apply the concepts in which they learn in practicing law. In furtherance of this goal, in the fall 2014, McKanders, along with her students, traveled to Artesia, New Mexico to engage in the pro bono representation of detained women and children who were summarily denied due process rights.
Her work has taken her around the country and abroad researching the efficacy of legal institutions charged with processing migrants and refugees. In 2011, she received a Fulbright award to lecture at the University of Mohammad V in Rabat, Morocco. After her Fulbright, she played an instrumental role in establishing Morocco’s first pro bono Refugee Legal Aid Clinic with the organization, Droit et Justice. She continues to collaborate with law professors and civil society in the Middle East and North Africa to address implementing clinical legal education and disparities in access to justice for immigrants and refugees.
Her articles have been published in the Harvard Journal on Racial and Ethnic Justice, University of Iowa’s Gender Race and Social Justice Law Journal, and Catholic Law Review, among other law journals. She has also been cited as an authority on immigration and refugee law in Reuters, ABC News, and Al-Jazeera. In addition, McKanders has received numerous awards for her work, including selection by University’s Chancellor for the Jefferson Prize and the Gardner of Change Award for her teaching.
In addition to teaching in the Immigration Clinic, she teaches Refugee Law and Policy and Humanitarian Law. Her teaching expands outside the classroom as she has been sought after by police departments, Universities in the MENA region, bar associations, community organizations, and Tennessee’s Department of Children Services to provide training on immigration and refugee law.
McKanders received her J.D. Duke University in 2003, and her BA in Political Science and Minor in French from Spelman College in 2000.