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Saturday, April 4, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington

Seattle University Law School suspends externship with ICE

By Asia Fields Seattle Times

After pressure from students, Seattle University School of Law administrators suspended its externship with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

An externship provides students with legal work experience for school credit. Externs for ICE work in its legal office, which represents the government in deportation proceedings and provides legal advice and training.

Alex Romero, a third-year law student who wants to be an immigration lawyer, noticed representatives from ICE at a table at a law school externship fair in late September. Romero met with administrators and told them this could be frightening for undocumented students and went against the school’s mission.

Seattle University is a Jesuit Catholic private school. Its mission statement includes the phrase, “empowering leaders for a just and humane world.” In June 2018, the law school joined other Jesuit organizations in condemning the Trump administration’s family separation policy.

Romero said administrators didn’t promise to make any changes, so he created an online petition. The petition had received 468 signatures in about a week when Law School Dean Annette Clark announced the decision to suspend the externship in an Oct. 31 email to campus. The email was first reported on by The Spectator, Seattle University’s student paper.

“As educators, lawyers, and soon-to-be-lawyers, we hold particular power and bear a special responsibility to be peacemakers and to assist those who are suffering due to the unjust operation of our legal system, laws, and their enforcement,” the email stated.

Seattle University has not had students in the ICE externship for several years, Clark wrote. It was one of more than 800 placements the school offers, law school spokesperson Claudine Benmar said.

Clark, the dean, wrote that the suspension came in response to ICE’s “current policies and practices” and that the decision will not affect externships with other federal agencies.

During the suspension, ICE representatives will not participate in externship fairs on campus. An ICE spokesperson did not immediately respond to request for comment.

A suspension isn’t quite what Romero sought, but he’s glad the university at least moved in that direction. He said he has a personal stake in the issue, and hopes administrators know other students do too.

“This is something that’s not just politics, it’s something that really hurts me personally. Seattle University needs to be made accountable to the promise it made during orientation, the promise that brought me to this school,” he said, referring to the school’s social-justice mission.

He said he hopes other schools will also suspend or terminate their ICE externships.

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