Law students unhappy they use same legal databases as ICE

Students at 23 law schools are telling their universities to stop using LexisNexis and Westlaw.

The programs are used for legal research, and they sell data to law enforcement organizations that helps them find illegal immigrants.

Students at 23 law schools across America are demanding their universities cut ties with two major legal databases because their parent companies share data with Immigration & Customs Enforcement.

The End the Contract Coalition is pushing law schools, including Georgetown Law, Duke Law, NYU Law, and others, to stop using the popular legal research tools LexisNexis and Westlaw.

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Both companies aggregate data including legal briefs, motions, statutes, and case judgements, making them critical resources for law students. ICE can also analyze data obtained from these companies including location information, license plate numbers, utility bills, and criminal and employment records, as Inside Higher Ed reports.

The End the Contract Coalition is petitioning each of their affiliate schools to end their use of LexisNexis and Westlaw. It is also petitioning LexisNexis to end its $16.8 million contract with ICE. That petition states, “We will not stop educating people about what your company is doing to immigrants and your role in furthering mass deportation in this country. Detention and deportation ruins peoples [sic] lives and contributes to generational trauma and destabilization.”

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The Coalition held a “Week of Action” in October, during which students held demonstrations, including a protest at the LexisNexis headquarters, according to Inside Higher Ed. It has published flyers and stickers for member organizations to use, many of which bear the slogan “Abolish ICE.”

Separating from Westlaw and LexisNexis may be more complicated than students think. According to The Hill, these programs are used by many employers in the legal field, and students “know they will have to master them to be able to succeed in the field.”

A LexisNexis representative directed Campus Reform to a dedicated website about its ties to law enforcement. The company attempts to shield itself from criticism from the left by mentioning the Biden administration’s lax immigration policies, saying, “Under the new Biden Administration [sic], in March 2021 LexisNexis Risk Solutions was awarded a contract to provide an investigative tool to the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We entered into this contract understanding that the mission of Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the new Administration [sic] had changed to focus immigration enforcement resources on people with serious criminal backgrounds.” 

The End the Contract Coalition did not respond to a request for comment. This piece will be updated in the event of a response.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AngelaLMorabito