Natalie Nanasi

Headshot of Natalie Nanasi, faculty member at SMU Dedman School of Law.

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

Full-time faculty


Natalie Nanasi is an Associate Professor of Law and the founding Director of the Judge Elmo B. Hunter Legal Center for Victims of Crimes Against Women.  

In the Hunter Clinic, Professor Nanasi supervises students’ representation of survivors of intimate partner violence, human trafficking, and sexual abuse in a broad range of legal matters. She also oversees students as they conduct systemic policy advocacy and community education to find long-term solutions to the problem of violence against women. Professor Nanasi's research explores the intersection of gender and feminist theory with immigration and firearms. Her scholarship has appeared in numerous journals and law reviews, including the Ohio State Law Review, Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, Harvard Law & Policy Review, Temple Law Review, Villanova Law Review, and Columbia Journal of Gender and Law.

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 received her J.D. from Georgetown Law, 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 the 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.

Area of expertise

  • Clinical Legal Education
  • Humanitarian Immigration Law
  • Domestic Violence Law
  • Gender and the Law
  • Second Amendment


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


Crimes Against Women (Hunter) Clinic
Asylum and Refugee Law 


Reconciling Domestic Violence Protections and the Second Amendment, Wake Forest Law Review (forthcoming 2023)

New Approaches to Disarming Domestic Abusers, 67 Villanova Law Review 651 (2022)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Patriarchy's Link to Intimate Partner Violence: Applications to Survivors’ Asylum Claims, Violence Against Women (2022) (with Dr. Daniel Saunders, Dr. Tina Jiwatram-Negrón, and Iris Cardenas)
SAGE Journals Open Access

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

Disarming Domestic Abusers, 559 Harvard Law & Policy Review 608 (2020)
SSRN | SMU Repository

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

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

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

Other publications

A Library's Legacy, 71 SMU Law Review 27 (2018)
SMU Repository

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)

The U Visa: An Effective Resource for Law Enforcement, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin (October 2009)

New Help for Immigrant Victims of Sexual Assault, Sexual Assault Report (February/March 2009), reprinted in Family & Intimate Partner Violence Quarterly (Winter 2011)


The Hill, Op-Ed, Does the Second Amendment protect the right of abusers to own a gun? We’re about to find out. (November 2023)

Houston Chronicle, Op-Ed, When abusers have guns, everyone is at risk (November 2023) (with Kelly Roskam)

ProPublica, quoted in The Supreme Court Will Decide if Domestic Abuse Orders Can Bar People From Having Guns. Lives Could Be at Stake. (November 2023)

Law 360quoted in Ken Paxton Wins Texas AG Race Despite Legal Woes (November 2022)

Dallas Morning News, quoted in Ohio Republican Lawmakers Pushing an Even More Restrictive Abortion Bill than Texas' New Ban (November 2021)

The Guardian, quoted in How the U.S. Fails to Take Away Guns from Domestic Abusers: 'These Deaths are Preventable (October 2021)

Reveal News, quoted in How American Gun Laws are Failing Domestic Violence Victims (October 2021)

Fault Lines, Interview, Banned from Having a Gun, He Killed her with One Anyway (October 2021)

Spectrum News, Interview, SMU Law Professor Says Legal System is 'Changing Before Students' Eyes (September 2021)

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Interview, Her Family Fled Violence in Iraq. Now This Woman Helps Other Refugees in Fort Worth (July 2021)

CBS DFW, Interview, Legal and Policy Experts React to Gov. Abbott's Border Security Plans (June 2021)

KRGV5 News, Interview, North Texas Law Professor Expects Biden Administration to Sue Texas to Block States' Border Wall (June 2021)

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

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

Dallas Morning News, quoted in North Texas Leads the Way in Seeking Financial Restitution for the Victims of Sex Traffickers (September 2020)