AILA Public Statements, Press Releases

AILA Presents Karla McKanders with the 2023 Elmer Fried Excellence in Teaching Award

6/8/23 AILA Doc. No. 23060700.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

George Tzamaras
Belle Woods

WASHINGTON, DC - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) recognizes Karla McKanders with the 2023 Elmer Fried Excellence in Teaching Award.

As one of her nominators shared, “She is leading our community of advocates and scholars at a time of tremendous pressures on the humanitarian and due process aspects of immigration and asylum law,” adding, “She is a leader. She is brilliant. She gives of her time and helps others grow. She is all that a professor should be.”

Karla McKanders is an expert on immigration and refugee law, and race and the law. She teaches at Vanderbilt University Law School where she directs the Immigration practice Clinic and teaches Critical Race Theory, Immigration and Refugee Law. Before joining Vanderbilt’s law faculty, Ms. McKanders was a professor at University of Tennessee College of Law, where she started the first Immigration Clinic in the state. In 2011, she received a Fulbright award to lecture on refugee and humanitarian law in Rabat, Morocco. While in Morocco, she collaborated to start a refugee legal aid organization for asylum seekers. After the Fulbright, she was selected in 2018 as the scholar in residence with the Hilary Clinton Center for Gender at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco, where she examined the application of the Refugee Convention in Morocco, focusing on gender-based persecution and discrimination against asylum seekers of African descent. In 2022, she received the Tennessee Bar Association’s Access to Justice B. Riney Green Award in recognition of the innovative Afghan Asylum Project with Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors.

Ms. McKanders chairs the American Bar Association’s Commission on Immigration. Before joining the legal academy, Professor McKanders clerked for the Honorable Damon J. Keith on the U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit in Detroit. She earned her law degree at Duke University, Masters in Theology from Vanderbilt University, and undergraduate degree at Spelman College.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.