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Seattle University School of Law

Law School Suspends Controversial ICE Externship

A law school in Seattle is suspending its externship with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) following pressure from its students.

Seattle University Law School announced its decision to suspend the externship in an October 31st email to students and faculty, The Seattle Times reports.

“As of today, I am suspending our externship placement with ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) based on its current policies and practices,” law school Dean Annette Clark wrote in an email to students and faculty. “This action aligns with the fact that our law school is a signatory to the attached statement, which was issued by a consortium of Jesuit organizations in June 2018, and which condemns administration policies that have led to the unjust and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and migrant families, practices that continue today and that directly affect members of our community.”

Pressure From Students

Alex Romero, a third-year law student, first brought up concerns about the program to administrators in late September. When he realized administrators weren’t taking any action, he started an online petition, according to The Spectator.

In a roughly a week, the petition received 468 signatures.

“I prepared arguments on why this is inappropriate at our school and contrary to our mission and a list of other arguments,” Romero tells The Spectator. “The law school weighed the argument [that] the school has an ample responsibility to provide different options for different students and weighed it heavier than my arguments.”

Jill Dutton, Director of the Externship Program at Seattle University School of Law, says the law school went through a comprehensive process in hearing all sides before making a concrete decision.

“We felt it was necessary to discuss and reflect on what we were hearing regarding ICE policies and practices,” Dutton tells The Spectator in an email statement. “The Dean consulted with students as well as her leadership team and the University Administration, seeking a range of viewpoints and opinions before ultimately deciding to suspend the externship.”

A Responsibility And A Strong Belief System

Part of the reason behind suspending the program was to protect students who may feel fearful about ICE.

“Students raised concerns after ICE presence at our annual Externship Fair caused them to feel unsafe,” Dutton tells The Spectator. “We believe a real possibility exists that placing a student in an ICE externship may force them to act unethically or unlawfully.”

Steven Bender, the law school’s associate dean for planning and strategic initiatives, says while the law school hasn’t officially terminated the program, it does have a responsibility to create an inclusive environment on campus.

“That’s what our focus is going to be on: to hear the concerns that were raised over the externship, to hear about any additional concerns, and while we don’t have the ability, necessarily, to take curricular action, we can recommend changes,” he tells The Spectator.

Seattle University, a Jesuit Catholic private school, has previously condemned the Trump administration’s policies against separating families at the border.

According to the press release by the Jesuits of Canada and the United States, which includes 11 Jesuit law schools, the organization says Trump’s policies go against core Jesuit beliefs.

“As organizations that seek to promote the rights of children and families and protect the rule of law, we reject these policies as contrary to our Jesuit values, human rights and children’s rights principles, and refugee law & all of which protect the rights of safe migration and family unity,” the statement reads. “These policies violate the best interest of the child, one of the most universally understood principles of child welfare, and a standard we apply to our own children in domestic child welfare proceedings.”

Sources: The Seattle Times, The Spectator, Seattle University School of Law