James, Deborah and Killick, Evan
Empathy and expertise: case workers and immigration/asylum applicants in London.
Law and Social Inquiry, 37
Under recent reforms, the UK government has eroded state funding for civil legal aid. Funding cuts affect asylum and immigration law as produced, practiced, and mediated in the course of interactions between case workers and their clients in legal-aid-funded Law Centers in South London. The article explores the contradictory character of one-on-one relationships between case workers and clients. Despite pressure to quantify their work in "value for money" terms, the empathy that often motivates case workers drives them to provide exceptional levels of aid to their clients in facing an arbitrary bureaucracy. Such personalized commitment may persuade applicants to accept the decisions of that bureaucracy, thus reinforcing a hegemonic understanding of the power of the law. The article, however, challenges the assumption that, in attempting to shape immigrant/refugees as model-albeit second-class-citizens, case worker/client interactions necessarily subscribe to the categories and assumptions that underpin UK immigration and asylum law.
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