May 23, 2016

Advocate for Refugees Wins ACS David Carliner Public Interest Award

 Blaine Bookey of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies Works to Protect Refugees Fleeing Gender-Based Violence and Persecution

CONTACT: Nanya Springer, Associate Director of Communications,

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Blaine Meredith Bookey, Co-Legal Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings College of Law, will be awarded the American Constitution Society’s David Carliner Public Interest Award at the 2016 ACS National Convention.

The Carliner Award is given annually to a mid-career public interest lawyer whose work best exemplifies David Carliner’s legacy of fearless, uncompromising and creative advocacy on behalf of marginalized people. Carliner, who began as an activist organizing against poll taxes, militarism and white supremacy in the 1930s and 1940s, became a pioneering immigration attorney who served as the founding chair of Global Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union–National Capital Area. The award will be presented at the ACS National Convention’s June 9 Gala Dinner and includes a $10,000 prize for Ms. Bookey plus $2,500 for the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies. Lindsay Toczylowski, executive director of the Immigrant Defenders Law Center, was named a finalist for her work on behalf of immigrants in Southern California and beyond. Ms. Toczylowski will receive a $2,500 prize.

Blaine Bookey, an expert in gender asylum law, has worked on behalf of women and children fleeing gender-based violence and persecution since the first year after law school when she investigated reports of sexual violence in post-earthquake Haiti. As Co-Legal Director at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS), she has pushed the U.S. to recognize gender violence as a basis for asylum, helping to win a great victory in 2014 when the Board of Immigration Appeals—the highest immigration court in the country—adopted CGRS’s legal theories to issue its first published decision granting asylum based on domestic violence. Following this decision, Bookey traveled to a U.S. detention center for immigrant families in Artesia, New Mexico, to counsel attorneys about how to gain asylum protection for the women and children housed at the facility. Fourteen of the 15 cases heard there resulted in grants of asylum, and she continues to provide counsel in the appeal of the one denial. She is assisting attorneys in hundreds of cases across the country to ensure expansive and consistent interpretation of the Board’s landmark decision.

At CGRS, she has co-authored or edited several cutting-edge studies including A Treacherous Journey: Child Migrants Navigating the U.S. Immigration and Childhood and Migration in Central and North America, funded by the MacArthur Foundation as well as Breaking Barriers: Challenges to Implementing Laws on Violence against Women in Afghanistan and Tajikistan funded by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against women. She also advocates for more protective policies toward women and children fleeing violence in their home countries, working to build support for appointed counsel for children in deportation proceedings and political will to end the deplorable practice of detention of asylum seekers and immigrants. In addition to her work with CGRS, Ms. Bookey is an adjunct professor at UC Hastings College of Law, where she has taught courses in human rights. She is Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of the international women’s rights organization MADRE.

The judges for this year’s David Carliner Public Interest Award were: Nan Aron, Executive Director, Alliance for Justice; Deborah Carliner, Attorney and Past President, ACLU—National Capital Area; William Fletcher, Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; Jacob Remes, Assistant Professor of Public Affairs and History, SUNY Empire State College; Peter Schey, President, Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law; and Vince Warren, Executive Director, Center for Constitutional Rights.

The past recipients of the David Carliner Public Interest Award are: Zachary Norris, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights; Peter J. Wagner, Prison Policy Initiative; Kara Hartzler, Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc.; Janson Wu, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders; Tim Freilich, Immigrant Advocacy Program, Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville, Va.; Cathleen Caron, Global Workers Justice Alliance; and Dori Rose Inda, Watsonville Law Center, Watsonville, Calif.

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS) is the nation's leading progressive legal organization. In its 15th year, ACS has a nationwide network of lawyers, law students, scholars, judges, policymakers and other concerned individuals dedicated to making the law a force to improve lives of all people. For more information about the organization or to locate one of the more than 200 lawyer and law student chapters in 48 states, please visit