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Karla McKanders

Clinical Professor of Law
Associate Director, Legal Clinic

Karla McKanders directs the Immigration Practice Clinic and teaches Refugee and Immigration Law. Her work has taken her throughout the U.S. and abroad teaching and researching the efficacy of legal institutions charged with processing migrants and refugees. In 2011, she received a Fulbright grant to lecture in Morocco. Before joining Vanderbilt’s law faculty, Professor McKanders was a tenured associate professor of law at University of Tennessee College of Law. During the 2016-17 academic year, she was a visiting associate professor of law at Howard University School of Law, where she directed the Civil Rights Clinic. Before she joined the law faculty at the University of Tennessee, she was a clinical teaching fellow at Villanova University School of Law in the Clinic for Asylum Refugee and Emigrant Services. McKanders serves on the American Bar Association’s Commission on Immigration Advisory Committee.

McKanders was a law clerk for Judge Damon J. Keith with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit after earning her law degree at Duke University and undergraduate degree at Spelman College. She has been cited as an authority on immigration and refugee law by such media outlets as Reuters, ABC News and Al-Jazeera.

Research Interests

Immigration, refugee law, civil rights, race and the law

Representative Publications

  • "Immigration and Racial Justice: Enforcing the Borders of Blackness," Georgia State University Law Review (forthcoming 2021)
    Full Text | SSRN
  • "Deconstructing Invisible Walls: Sotomayor's Dissents in Era of Immigration Exceptionalism," 27 William & Mary Journal of Women and Law 95 (2020)
    Full Text | SSRN
  • "Immigration and Blackness: What's Race Got to Do with It?" in American Bar Association Human Rights Magazine, Vol. 44, No. 1 (2019)
    Full Text | WWW
  • Arabs at Home and in the World: Human Rights, Gender Politics and Identity, Taylor & Francis (2019) (editor)
    Full Text | WWW
  • "Morocco at the Crossroads: The Intersection of Race, Gender and Refugee Status" in Women and Social Change in North Africa: What Counts as Revolutionary? Cambridge University Press (2017) ( D. Gray and N. Sonneveld, editors)
    Full Text | SSRN
  • "The Subnational Response: Local Intervention in Immigration Policy and Enforcement" in Compassionate Migration and Regional Policy in the Americas, Palgrave McMillan (2017) (Steven W. Bender and William F. Arrocha, editors)
    Full Text | WWW
  • "Immigration Enforcement and the Fugitive Slave Acts: Exploring Their Similarities," 1.4 Catholic Law Review 921 (2012)
    Full Text | SSRN | WWW
  • "Sustaining Tiered Personhood: Jim Crow and Anti-Immigrant Laws," 26 Harvard Journal of Racial and Ethnic Justice 163 (2010)
    Full Text | SSRN
  • "The Unspoken Voices of Indigenous Women in Immigration Raids," 14 Journal of Gender, Race and Justice 1 (2010)
    Full Text | SSRN
  • "Welcome to Hazleton! 'Illegal' Immigrants Beware: Local Immigration Ordinances and What the Federal Government Must Do About It," 39 Loyola University Chicago Law Journal 101 (2007)
    Full Text | SSRN