Discussion Forum with Yale Law Professor Michael Wishnie

On Wednesday, February 15, Michael Wishnie (P '16), a Yale law professor and Director of the Jerome Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School, spoke to members of the Choate community on the implications of President Trump's recent executive orders on immigration.

Professor Wishnie discussed the series of executive orders the last of which, "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States," included a 120-day moratorium on any new refugees entering the U.S.; an indefinite moratorium on new Syrian refugees from entering the U.S., and a 30-day ban on immigration from seven countries with predominantly Muslim populations: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Sudan.

The orders issued on Friday, January 27, left many travelers stranded and set off a wave of protests in airports around the U.S. and abroad where some individuals were detained. Wishnie related how he led a group of Yale Law School students who filed a class action lawsuit in a Brooklyn federal court on behalf of two Iraqi refugees detained at JFK airport. The judge issued a temporary emergency order barring the U.S from deporting people from nations subject to the travel ban. Similar emergency orders were filed in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington state.

Wishnie also addressed a portion of the far-reaching executive order that would withhold federal funds from any jurisdiction "which has in effect a statute, policy or practice that prevents or hinders the enforcement of federal law." Wishnie noted that Connecticut has long had a statute that protects "sanctuary cities" like New Haven, East Haven, and Hartford from cooperating with federal immigration authorities in their unlawful pursuit of illegal aliens.

"There are many lessons to be learned from the recent series of events, said Wishnie, "The first lesson is that the law matters; the second lesson is that the law alone is not enough." He added, "It took the mobilization of thousands of people at airports to stand up and make an impact. Standing up for what is lawful, resisting collectively, and deploying the skills available to us can be most effective." In closing, Professor Wishnie shared some advice on travel and fielded questions from students who are most directly impacted by these executive orders.

Professor Wishnie's presentation was at the invitation of the Current Events Resource Group tasked by Headmaster Curtis to support community members as we navigate policy changes emerging from the White House that have implications for people worldwide, nationwide, and in the Choate community.