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October 08, 2019

Immigration Webinar Series

A free webinar series exploring immigration at the intersection of nation security law, public international law, and US constitutional law.

November 20 - Mass Violence Motivated by Hate

December 18 - U.S. Elections 2020

January 15 - Related U.S. Supreme Court Cases

February 19 - State of Emergency at the Southern Border

March 18 - America's Wartime Detainees v. Migration Children

April 15 - The Muslim Ban Revisited

Civil Rights and Social Justice

Civil Rights and Social Justice

About the Webinar Series

As the next presidential election cycle creeps near, and amid a congressional impeachment inquiry, the Administration has further intensified its assault on immigrants.  From a new "public charge" rule that refuses green cards and citizenship to poor immigrants to denying visas to those who lack health insurance to  collecting DNA from detained immigrants for an FBI database, such xenophobic policies undermine constitutional values and democratic principles. 

The Section's Rights of Immigrants Committee hosted a six-part national lecture series exploring immigration at the intersection of national security law, public international law and US constitutional law, among other legal areas. During these free webinars, legal scholars, practitioners and political commentators addressed this deepening crises in our collective pursuit advancing law and justice.  Effective action begins with knowledge and proper understanding.


Mass Violence Motivated By Hate: Are New Domestic Terrorism Laws the Answer?

Date:           Wednesday, November 20, 2019


  • Hina Shamsi, Director, National Security Project, American Civil Liberties Union
  • Michael German, Fellow, Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Project, NYU School of Law
  • David Schanzer, Professor, Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy ; Director, Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security


  • Engy Abdelkader, Chair, Rights of Immigrants Committee, Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, American Bar Association

Program Description: In the aftermath of a white supremacist mass shooting targeting “Mexicans” in El Paso, Texas and similar attacks, political leaders have introduced new domestic terrorism laws at the state and federal levels. In New York, for instance, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) introduced the Hate Crimes Domestic Terrorism Act treating mass violence motivated by hate as terrorist crimes. Additionally, Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) recently spearheaded similar initiatives in Congress. Under the proposed laws, attacks like the one in El Paso, the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and the Emanuel African Episcopal Church in Charleston can be prosecuted as terrorism.

Previously, federal law defined domestic terrorism but failed to include corresponding criminal penalties. According to federal law enforcement, this gap prevented them from pursuing domestic terrorism charges. Instead, they charge suspects with murder, assault, unlawfully possessing firearms and/or under a federal hate crimes statute when there is evidence of the requisite bias motive. In fact, in the last two decades, federal terrorism prosecutions have centered on foreign actors and organizations rather than on white nationalists. Significantly, many Americans applaud the newly proposed laws, arguing that we should draw no distinction between mass violence perpetrated by white supremacists versus that of foreign actors. 

Yet, civil libertarians are sounding the alarm.  They warn that law enforcement - who have prioritized ‘Black Identity Extremists’ as terrorist threats over white nationalists and al-Qaeda, according to leaked documents - may later misuse these laws to silence non-violent dissent. Do these laws put Black Lives Matter supporters, anti-war protestors and/or animal rights activists at risk? Do they presently incorporate sufficient safeguards against such misuse and abuse?  Our panel of experts discussed these issues and allied questions.

US Elections 2020: Where and How Can We Draw a Constitutionally Permissible Line on a Candidate’s Inflammatory Political Rhetoric?

Date:           Wednesday, December 18, 2019


  • Elie Mystal, Managing Editor, Above the Law; Host of Thinking Like a Lawyer
  • Wajahat Ali, Op-Ed Writer, The New York Times
  • James Weinstein, Law Professor, ASU Law School 


  • Engy Abdelkader, Chair, Rights of Immigrants Committee, Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, American Bar Association

Program Description: Political candidates running for public office have long exploited popular fears, racial anxieties and other divisions as an electoral strategy. Increasingly, and most recently, this has led to socially oppressed groups’ claims that some political rhetoric is so inflammatory that it impermissibly inspires violence against community members.

During the 2016 US Elections, for example, then-candidate Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign by characterizing Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” and “criminals.”   Afterwards, two brothers attacked a homeless Latino man in Boston, Mass.  One of the attackers stated that he was inspired by Mr. Trump’s immigration rhetoric. Just a few months ago, President Trump asked an audience at a rally how they would stop migrants from attempting to enter this country. When a supporter responded “Shoot them,” the President smiled and failed to offer any appropriate corrective. For many in the Latinx community, the El Paso mass shooting targeting “Mexicans” on Aug. 3 was a natural progression from inflammatory speech by national leaders to xenophobic violence.

They are not alone in that sentiment. The NAACP, for instance, has attributed the continued rise in anti-Black hate crimes to political rhetoric and racist policies. Muslim Americans and Jewish compatriots have previously shared similar concerns as well. Beyond these group claims, journalists have also complained that hateful speech demonizing them has incited physical assaults and threats. In fact, according to Gallup, 58% of Americans now blame recent mass shootings on inflammatory political rhetoric by prominent politicians or political commentators. 

Significantly, the First Amendment Doctrine provides robust protections for free expression.  More speech is legally preferred as the response to negative speech.  Ultimately, the most truthful, meritorious claims should prevail in the marketplace of ideas. In Whitney v. California, for example, Justice Louis Brandeis, in his famous explication of this principle, wrote, "[I]f there be a time to expose through discussion, the falsehoods and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."

But, the current sociopolitical context forces some difficult questions: Realistically speaking, does the Counter-Speech Doctrine empower socially disadvantaged groups to effectively respond to the odious speech of powerful figures that demonizes their religious, racial and/or ethnic identity? What, if any, role do news media outlets play in facilitating the Counter-Speech Doctrine, amplifying marginalized voices and equalizing the playing field? Should social media technology giants shut down - or at a minimum, temporarily suspend - accounts engaging in hateful rhetoric? Where can we draw a Constitutionally acceptable line on hateful political speech in a pluralistic democratic society that values peaceful co-existence among different racial, ethnic, and religious groups as well as freedom of expression? Our experts will discuss these and allied questions.

Review of Immigration-Related U.S. Supreme Court Cases:  Challenges, Ramifications & What to Expect

Date:           Wednesday, January 15, 2020


  • Phil Torrey, Managing Attorney and Lecturer on Law, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program
  • Stephen I. Vladeck, Law Professor, University of Texas School of Law
  • Lucas Guttentag, Law Professor, Stanford Law School


  • Engy Abdelkader, Chair, Rights of Immigrants Committee, Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, American Bar Association

Program Description: The US Supreme Court has heard a number of critically important immigration cases in recent years, ranging from challenges to new restrictions on asylum seekers’ rights to seek judicial redress, to attempted inclusion of a new citizenship question on the 2020 census, to denial of the right to a bond hearing in detention.  Our scholars will discuss the most significant cases, their ramifications, and what to expect in 2020.  We will also consider what role politics and partisanship plays in the High Court’s current decision-making and the nature and likely future of recent “court-packing” proposals.

There is a National Emergency at the Southern Border. True or False?

Date:           February 19, 2020

  • Erica Newland, Counsel, Protect Democracy
  • Laura Peña, Pro Bono Counsel, ABA Commission on Immigration
  • Seth Weinberger, Professor of Politics and Government, University of Puget Sound


  • Engy Abdelkader, Chair, Rights of Immigrants Committee, Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, American Bar Association

Program Description: On February 15, 2019, President Trump declared a national emergency at the U.S. Southern Border with Mexico in order to build a wall. Citing the National Emergencies Act, the presidential proclamation describes the border “as a major entry point for criminals, gang members, and illicit narcotics,” where there have been “sharp increases in the number of family units entering,” thus necessitating “the Armed Forces to provide additional support to address the crisis.”  Significantly, the president issued this proclamation after Congress refused his request for billions to realize a campaign promise: “I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively.  I will build a great great wall on our southern border and I’ll have Mexico pay for that wall.”  From congressional resolutions to terminate the public emergency to ensuing federal litigation challenging it, our experts will discuss legal developments and related ramifications one year later.

Do We Treat America’s Wartime Detainees Better Than Migrant Children?

Date:           Wednesday, March 18, 2020


  • Alvaro Botero, Member, UN Committee on Migrant Workers
  • Lee Gelernt, Deputy Director, Immigrant Rights Project, ACLU
  • Ryan Vogel, Professor and Director of National Security Studies, Utah Valley University
  • Chloe Walker, Senior Staff Attorney, ABA's Children's Immigration Law Academy (CILA)


  • Engy Abdelkader, Chair, Rights of Immigrants Committee, Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, American Bar Association

Program Description: According to a new report from the Office of Inspector General of the US Department of Health and Human Services, migrant children fleeing violence in their native countries have experienced severe psychological trauma before and after entering the country when we separated them from their families and placed them in detention facilities pursuant to the Trump Administration’s so-called ‘zero tolerance’ policy. In another report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General, investigators found prolonged detention and serious overcrowding in these facilities.  In three of the five facilities, for example, government investigators found children had no access to showers and limited access to change of clothes. In two detention centers, children also had no access to hot meals.  Additionally, public reporting revealed that some children were molested and/or emotionally and physically abused while in federally-funded-custody. Moreover, while the administration claimed that it would reunite families separated at the border, some government officials conceded that they lacked requisite information to reconnect children with their parents.   Join us for a conversation about this crisis.

The Muslim Ban Revisited: Trump v. Hawaii Two Years Later

Date:           Wednesday, April 15, 2020


  • Congresswoman Judy Chu, U.S. Representative for California's 27th Congressional District; Sponsor, No Ban Act
  • Elica Vafaie, Pro Bono & Strategic Partnerships Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights
  • Khaled A. Beydoun, Law Professor, University of Arkansas School of Law


  • Engy Abdelkader, Chair, Rights of Immigrants Committee, Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, American Bar Association

Program Description: Following his ascension to the Oval Office in 2017, President Trump issued an executive order banning entry to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries. On June 26, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the third iteration of the ban after earlier versions had been enjoined in lower federal courts, and then revised and blocked again. Our panel of experts will explore recent legal developments since Trump v. Hawaii.