Natalie Nanasi

Full-time faculty

Director of the Judge Elmo B. Hunter Legal Center for Victims of Crimes Against Women and Associate Professor of Law


Natalie Nanasi is an Associate Professor of Law and the Director of the Judge Elmo B. Hunter Legal Center for Victims of Crimes Against Women. Her work involves supervising students’ representation of survivors of gender-based violence in a broad range of legal matters as well as systemic advocacy and policy work.

Prior to arriving at SMU, Professor Nanasi was a Practitioner-in-Residence and the Director of the Domestic Violence Clinic at American University, Washington College of Law (WCL). Before joining the faculty at WCL, she was the Senior Immigration Attorney and Pro Bono Coordinator at the Tahirih Justice Center, where she represented immigrant women and girls fleeing human rights abuses such as female genital cutting, domestic and sexual violence, forced marriage, and honor crimes. Professor Nanasi also served as counsel in the landmark asylum case of Matter of A-T- and as an Equal Justice Works Fellow from 2007-2009, with a focus on the U visa. Prior to her work at Tahirih, she was a law clerk to the Honorable Lynn Leibovitz of the District of Columbia Superior Court.

Professor Nanasi's scholarship explores the intersection of gender and feminist theory with immigration and firearms. Her scholarship is has appeared in numerous journals and law reviews, including the Ohio State Law Review,
Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, Temple Law Review, Harvard Law & Policy Review, and Columbia Journal of Gender and Law.

Active in the Dallas nonprofit community, Professor Nanasi currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas and the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center.

Professor Nanasi received her J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center, where she earned an Equal Justice Foundation fellowship for her work at the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Center in New Delhi, India and assisted in representation of HIV-positive immigrants at Whitman Walker Clinic Legal Services. Prior to her legal career, Professor Nanasi was a rape crisis counselor and supported single teenage mothers at a transitional residence facility in Boston. 



Areas of Expertise

  • Clinical Legal Education
  • Humanitarian Immigration Law
  • Domestic Violence Law


B.A., Brandeis University
J.D., Georgetown University Law Center


Crimes Against Women (Hunter) Clinic
Family Immigration Detention Clinic


Death of the Particular Social Group, 260 NYU Review of Law and Social Change 309 (2021)
Full-text: SSRN | SMU Repository

Disarming Domestic Abusers, 559 Harvard Law & Policy Review 608 (2020).
Full-text: SSRN | SMU Repository

Are Domestic Abusers Terrorists? Rhetoric, Reality, and Asylum Law, 91 Temple Law Review 215 (2019)
Full-text: SSRN | SMU Repository

A Library's Legacy, 71 SMU Law Review 27 (2018)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

The U Visa's Failed Promise for Survivors of Domestic Violence, 29 Yale Journal of Law & Feminism 273 (2018)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Domestic Violence Asylum and the Perpetuation of the Victimization Narrative, 78 Ohio State Law Journal 733 (2017)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

An “I Do” I Choose: How the Fight for Marriage Access Supports a Per Se Finding of Persecution for Asylum Cases Based on Forced Marriage, 28 Columbia Journal of Gender & Law 48 (2014)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Book Chapters

Book Chapters and Short Pieces

Commentary on Matter of A-B- in FEMINIST JUDGMENTS: FAMILY LAW OPINIONS REWRITTEN, pp. 360-393 (Cambridge University Press), with S. Pritchett (2020)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

A Fraught Pairing: Immigrant Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence and Law Enforcement, in THE POLITICIZATION OF SAFETY, (NYU, Press, 2019)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

Other Publications

Op-ed, Dallas “Decompression Center” Can't Become Another Prison for Migrant Youth, The Hill (March 27, 2021)

Op-ed, Survivors of Sex Trafficking are not Criminals, Dallas Morning News (Jan. 24, 2021)

Op-ed, New Trump Immigration Regulations Would Devastate Refugee Pathways, The Hill (June 16, 2020)

Op-ed, AG Barr Ruling Puts Asylum Seekers at Deadly Risk, The Hill (July 31, 2019)

The DOJ Quietly Narrowed the Definition of Domestic Violence. It’s a Travesty, Slate (Jan. 21, 2019)

Op-Ed, A Government Attack on Immigrant Women and Children, Texas Tribune (June 29, 2018)

Op-Ed, Attorney General's Asylum Ruling Misunderstands Domestic Violence and Miscarries Justice, Dallas Morning News (June 15, 2018)

Op-Ed, Sutherland Springs Massacre was Foreseeable and Maybe Even Preventable, Dallas Morning News, (Nov. 11, 2017)

Blog Post, U.S. Marriage Equality Decision Highlights Disparity in Forced Marriage Asylum Adjudication, IntLawGrrls (July 23, 2015)

Lessons from Matter of A-T-: Guidance for Practitioners Litigating Asylum Cases Involving a Spectrum of Gender-Based Harms, from Female Genital Mutilation to Forced Marriage and Beyond, 12-02 Immigration Briefings 1 (February 2012)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

The U Visa: An Effective Resource for Law Enforcement, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, (October 2009)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository

New Help for Immigrant Victims of Sexual Assault, Sexual Assault Report (February/March 2009), reprinted in Family & Intimate Partner Violence Quarterly (Winter 2011)
Full-text:  SSRN | SMU Repository




Quoted in, “‘Abuse Is a Pattern.’ Why These Nations Took the Lead in Criminalizing Controlling Behavior in Relationships,” Time Magazine, June 21, 2019

Quoted in, “The Deadly Link Between Guns and Domestic Violence,” The Crime Report, May 30, 2019

Quoted in, “Federal Prosecutors are Cracking Down on Domestic Abusers With Guns,” Slate, March 25, 2019

Quoted or cited in:

  • Trump’s DOJ Provides Free Reign to Commit Abuse and Assault Against Women With Impunity, Daily Kos, March 21, 2019
  • “Did the DOJ Change the Definition of Domestic Violence on their Website Without Explanation?,” Snopes, Jan. 24, 2019
  • “The Government has Quietly – And Drastically – Changed the Definition of Domestic Violence. Why?, Upworthy, Jan. 29, 2019
  • “Trump’s Justice Department Softens Definition of Domestic Violence – Hardly Anyone Notices,” Crypto Coin Discovery, Jan. 29, 2019
  • “The Trump Administration Quietly Redefines ‘Domestic Violence’ and ‘Sexual Assault,’” Patheos, Jan. 26, 2019
  • “Trump Administration ‘Rolling Back Women’s Rights by 50 Years’ by Changing Definitions of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault,” The Independent-UK, Jan. 25, 2019
  • The Trump Administration Has Narrowed Its Definition of Domestic Violence to Just Physical Violence,” The Slot, Jan. 25, 2019
  • “Trump Administration Quietly Changes Definition of "Domestic Violence" and "Sexual Assault,” Salon, Jan. 23, 2019

Interviewed on CAP Impact Podcast, “Protecting Domestic Violence Survivors and Enforcing Gun Laws in Texas,” Jan. 24, 2019

Quoted in, “Thousands of Migrants Will be Housed in Temporary Camps at Two Texas Military Bases,” Dallas Morning News, June 25, 2018

Quoted in “What We Know – And Don’t – About the Consequences of Trump’s Executive Order,” Dallas Morning News, June 21, 2018

Interviewed on CBS 11 News, “Some Believe There’s a Connection Between Domestic Violence and Mass Shootings,” November 7, 2017

Interviewed on CBS 11 News, “Experts Discuss Solutions to Mass Shootings,” Nov. 6, 2017

Quoted in “Murder of 8 in Plano Shows Family Violence Extends Beyond an Abusive Relationship,” Dallas Morning News, Sept. 16, 2017

Interviewed on Fox 4 News, “SMU Professor Discusses Travel Ban Allowed to Take Effect by Supreme Court,” June 27, 2017

Interviewed on The Texas Standard, “A Program to Keep Guns Out of the Hands of Domestic Abusers Hasn’t Fulfilled its Promise,” May 26, 2017

Interviewed on Fox 4 News, “Study: Dallas County Gun Confiscation Program from Domestic Violence Offenders Falls Short,” May 24, 2017

Quoted in “Dallas County Plan to Disarm Domestic Abusers Seizes Just 60 Guns in 2 Years – A Fraction of Goal,” Dallas Morning News, May 24, 2017

Quoted in “SMU Law Professor, Students Volunteer to Help Detained Immigrants,” The Texas Lawyer, March 22, 2017

Interviewed on NBC 5 News, “SMU Law Students Skip Spring Break to Help Undocumented Women and Children Detained in South Texas,” March 10, 2017

Quoted in “Law Students Plan to Spent Spring Break Representing Immigrant Families Pro Bono, ABA Journal, March 7, 2017

Quoted in “Estudiantes de SMU Asesoraran a Familias Detenidas Por ICE en Karnes,” Al Dia Dallas, March 7, 2017

Interviewed on CBS 11 News, “A Closer Look At President Trump’s Executive Order Involving Travel Ban,” Jan. 30, 2017

Quoted in “SMU Law Professors Ask Senate to Block Trump’s Pick for Attorney General,” Dallas Morning News, Jan. 5, 2017

Featured in “Behind the Case: FGM Victim Receives Protection After Rare Attorney General Involvement,” AILA Voice Magazine, July/August 2011

Featured in “Domestic Violence in America,” Voice of America News Urdu, Nov. 22, 2010

Quoted in "Over 35 Women Flee Violent Homes Thanks to Local Group" Falls Church News Press (November 18, 2009)

Quoted in “U-Visa Program for Crime Victims Falters,” LA Times, Jan. 26, 2009