Michael Kagan

Co-Director of Immigration Clinic
Associate Professor of Law
Phone: 702-895-2675
B.A. cum laude, Northwestern University
J.D. cum laude, University of Michigan Law School

Michael Kagan brings a unique perspective to the study and practice of immigration law, having developed legal aid programs for forced migrants both in the United States and abroad. He is one of the most widely cited authorities on international refugee law and policy. His work integrates perspectives from international law, constitutional law, and administrative law and has been relied on by multiple federal courts of appeals, and by courts in Israel and New Zealand.

At UNLV, Prof. Kagan co-directs the Immigration Clinic and teaches administrative law, professional responsibility, international human rights and immigration law. In his clinical work, Prof. Kagan leads students in handling complex asylum and deportation cases, with a particular focus on the intersection of federal immigration law and local criminal justice. He has built an innovative program in which the Immigration Clinic consults with the Clark County Public Defender in plea negotiations involving immigrants.

Prof. Kagan, in partnership with UNLV’s Fatma Marouf (Law) and Rebecca Gill (Political Science), is leading a major empirical study about how the federal courts adjudicate immigration appeals. This research has opened a window on how federal judges make high stakes decisions about whether to halt deportations, decisions that are rarely published and usually invisible to the public. In honor of the project, Prof. Kagan and Prof. Marouf were named Bellow Scholars by the Association of American Law Schools.

Prof. Kagan’s research on credibility assessment in asylum cases has been relied on by the courts of appeals for the 9th and 7th Circuits and, according to a 2012 commentary, has “guided most subsequent research and analysis on the topic.” His 2006 study of refugee status determination by the United Nations has been noted as the most frequently cited article in the history of the International Journal of Refugee Law. His recent writing has been published by the Ohio State Law Journal, Washington University Law Review, California Law Review, Texas International Law Journal, Michigan Journal of Law Reform, Florida State University Law Review, and Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, among others.

Before coming to UNLV, Prof. Kagan spent 10 years building legal aid programs for refugees throughout the Middle East and Asia and held previous teaching positions at Tel Aviv University and the American University in Cairo. Prof. Kagan has a longstanding interest in human rights in the Middle East, having lived in Cairo, Beirut, Jerusalem and Dubai. He has written extensively about the Arab-Israeli conflict and about refugee policy in the region.

Prof. Kagan helped establish Asylum Access, a US-based organization that operates refugee rights programs on three continents, and was director of Africa Middle East Refugee Assistance in Egypt. His role in expanding refugee legal aid in the global south was profiled in Zachary Kaufman’s Social Entrepreneurship in the Age of Atrocities (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2012). He was also a lead drafter of the Nairobi Code, an international model code of ethics for legal aid in refugee cases. Prof. Kagan writes the blog RSDWatch.org, which monitors refugee status determination by the United Nations.