BY: Elise Hanks Billing | DATE: Aug 16, 2022

White House Role Is Believed to Be the First for a Member of CUNY’s Faculty




(NEW YORK, NY) Ramzi Kassem, a professor at the City University of New York School of Law, has been named a Senior Policy Advisor for Immigration at the White House Domestic Policy Council. A national expert on immigration and national security issues, Kassem brings years of academic and practical experience to the post, in what is believed to be the first time that a CUNY faculty member has been named to a White House role.

In this role, Kassem will work to support the Biden-Harris agenda across a range of immigration issues.

“As an immigrant who has worked with people and movements directly affected by government policies, it is a privilege to be in a position that could make a difference at scale in the lives of other immigrants,” Kassem said.

The Law School continues to be a national leader on progressive immigration reform. Making legal education accessible to immigrant students is a central tenet of CUNY Law’s mission to diversify the profession and train lawyers to use the law as a tool for social change.

“We are incredibly proud of Ramzi being named to this important post,” said Sudha Setty, dean of the CUNY School of Law. “I have no doubt that he will have a positive impact on our nation’s immigration policy, and we look forward to Ramzi sharing his experiences with his students and the community upon his return.”


Ramzi Kassem, wearing a grey long sleeve shirt, stands with one hand on his waist in a hallway
Groundbreaking Clinical Practice

In support of clients, communities and social movements, Kassem has litigated civil rights, constitutional, criminal, immigration, national security, wartime detention and war crime cases at all levels of the U.S. federal judiciary, before military commissions and international tribunals, and in various administrative proceedings. With his students, he has represented numerous immigrants and asylum-seekers in immigration court, before the Board of Immigration Appeals, and in federal courts.

Notably, Kassem argued Tanzin v. Tanvir before the U.S. Supreme Court, a landmark civil rights case challenging the federal government’s abuse of watchlists, resulting in a unanimous decision for the clinic’s clients. As part of their work in CUNY Law’s clinics, Kassem and his students have represented 15 prisoners of various nationalities incarcerated without fair process at Guantánamo Bay; their advocacy has established important law-of-war precedent and resulted in the liberation of 12 clients to date.

In addition to his legal scholarship, Kassem has lectured broadly and has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, The Guardian, and other outlets.

In 2020, Kassem was named to the inaugural class of Freedom Scholars in recognition of his work toward social, racial and economic justice.

At CUNY since 2009, Kassem has served as the founding director of CLEAR, an award-winning clinic at CUNY Law, which continues to be ranked No.1 for Clinical Education by U.S. News and World Report. For over a decade, he also directed or co-directed the Law School’s Immigrant & Non-Citizen Rights Clinic, one of the nation’s first immigration clinics.

Before joining the CUNY Law faculty, Kassem taught law at Yale and Fordham. He is a Paul & Daisy Soros New American Fellow, a graduate of Columbia College, and holds law degrees from Columbia Law School, where he was a senior editor for the Columbia Law Review, and from the Sorbonne.

Kassem will be on leave from duties at CUNY Law. He plans to return for the 2023-24 academic year.


CUNY School of Law is the nation’s No. 1 public interest law school; its dual mission to practice law in the service of human needs and transform the teaching, learning, and practice of law to include those it has excluded, marginalized, and oppressed make it a singular institution. As the only publicly funded law school in New York City, CUNY Law increases access to excellent legal training through this mission.