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A Recommitment to Community

Posted By Kevin R. Johnson, Feb 6, 2017

Dear King Hall Community:

The King Hall community and the University of California, Davis have been enriched immeasurably by the contributions of generations of students, faculty, and scholars from around the world.  I join UC President Janet Napolitano and the Chancellors of the University of California, including UC Davis Interim Chancellor Ralph Hexter, and other campus leaders and groups in expressing support for all members of our community and promising to continue to welcome to our University the best students and scholars of all backgrounds.   A UC website collects useful resources about the importance of community inclusion that are worth reviewing.

Please let me emphasize our steadfast support for our foreign J.D. and LL.M. students, who have traveled from around the world to study at UC Davis School of Law.  A number of students have expressed concern with the U.S. government’s treatment of foreign citizens, especially Muslims, by the current administration.  Let there be no mistake that King Hall stands with all of our students, faculty, and staff for the duration.

The immediate impacts of President Trump’s recent immigration executive orders on immigrants, their families, and communities have been far-reaching.  Although national security and public safety unquestionably are important, we must always be vigilant to ensure that actions taken in the name of security do not trample on the rights of the most vulnerable among us.  We must take to heart the lessons from, among other tragic episodes in our history, the nation’s mass detention of persons of Japanese ancestry – including U.S. citizens – during World War II.  As lawyers, law professors, and law students, we have a special role in ensuring adherence to the rule of law in turbulent times. 

The King Hall community should take pride in knowing that our faculty, students, and alumni have responded to community members in need.  Just hours after the January 27 executive order was issued, a Law School group traveled to the San Francisco and Sacramento international airports to offer assistance to detained individuals and their families.  One faculty member assisted noncitizens seeking advice at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.  During that weekend, more than 20 faculty and alumni worked with students at our Immigration Law Clinic, to identify people threatened with removal from the United States, prepare emergency motions, and assist in negotiations with border enforcement officers. Their work made a difference, for example, preventing the deportation of an elderly Iranian couple, reuniting a man with his bride-to-be, obtaining assistance for a pregnant woman detained at a hospital, and more.  (For details, see reports by Dateline UC Davis, KCRA-3, CBS-13, and Sacramento Bee.). 

Long a beacon of hope for immigrants, the Immigration Law Clinic, led by Professors Holly Cooper and Amagda Pérez, continues to respond to the increasing – and sometimes urgent – requests for assistance, as does the UC Undocumented Legal Services Center, serving all undocumented UC students and their families. 

Today at noon, the School of Law will host “A Teach In About the Immigration Executive Orders” in which Professors Karima Bennoune, Angela Harris, Leticia Saucedo, Brian Soucek, and Rose Cuison Villazor, as well as Executive Director of the Undocumented Legal Services Center María Blanco, will discuss President Trump’s Executive Orders regarding immigration law, immigrants’ rights, and human rights.  There no doubt will be more opportunities for dialogue in the coming weeks.

I urge all members of our community to consider, in your own way, assisting communities in need.  There are many possibilities.  Law students are participating in the upcoming naturalization workshops on March 11 that are being organized by La Raza Law Students Association as part of the César Chávez Day of Service.  Immigration Clinic students have volunteered to talk to Davis High School students worried about the possible removal of their families from the United States.  Externship Director Sara Jackson has information on how students may volunteer for the Sacramento Valley Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.  The law school administration will collect and distribute other volunteer opportunities as they become available.

Times of crisis test the moral fiber of a community.  UC Davis School of Law has long been defined by our dedication to the ideals of social justice, equality, and public service exemplified by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Please join me in reaffirming that commitment in the days and weeks that follow.

Kevin R. Johnson
UC Davis School of Law