by Anna Nathanson, Harvard NLG
Westlaw and LexisNexis are ubiquitous across the legal field as the foremost legal research services. But at law schools across the country, students are drawing attention to these companies’ role in the United States’ violently racist immigration system. Westlaw’s parent company Thomson Reuters, and LexisNexis’s parent company RELX, both have large-scale data contracts with ICE. Thomson Reuters profits from six distinct contracts with ICE for an estimated value of over $54 million. These include its CLEAR platform and its license plate reader database. Meanwhile, in 2013 ICE called the databases it accesses through its LexisNexis contracts “mission critical”. (To read in depth about Thomson Reuters and RELX’s data contracts with ICE, see Sarah Lamdan’s “When Westlaw Fuels Ice Surveillance: Legal Ethics in the Era of Big Data Policing”). In short, these data contracts are helping ICE target immigrants for arrest, caging, and deportation.
So, Law Students Against ICE was founded in response— we feel that Westlaw and Lexis’s contracts with ICE is a practice we are in a unique position to challenge. Westlaw and Lexis get so many special privileges from law school administrations — from access to student listservs, to space to hold sponsored research training, to free closet space — that they have a lot of exposure on law school campuses. We felt we had a contribution we could make to the larger #NoTechforICE and immigrant rights movements. NLG student chapters make up the base of the Law Students Against ICE backbone, and NLG student support has been a big part of what has allowed us to expand so rapidly.
Soon after our group put out feelers, we were connected to Mijente, who had already been planning a petition against Thomson Reuters and RELX’s collaboration with ICE. Mijente, the Immigration Defense Project, Researchers Against Surveillance, and Law Students Against Ice launched a joint “Drop Your Contracts!” petition, which can be found at notechforice.com/lawletter/. It already has over a thousand signatories.
Then, on our November 14th Day of Action, Law Students Against ICE members at law schools across the country held teach-ins, put up posters demanding #NoDataforICE, and tabled to discuss the issue with classmates. LexisNexis has signaled it is feeling the pressure from students’ efforts, giving all of its campus representatives talking points that attempt to minimize the significance of its data contracts with ICE. A LexisNexis representative even reached out to the National Lawyers Guild asking the Guild to stop its students from targeting LexisNexis.
Law Students Against ICE looks forward to escalating its demands against Thomson Reuters and RELX from campus to campus. All attorneys, law students, legal workers, librarians, and law professors are encouraged to support their work by signing the petition at notechforice.com/lawletter/. Law students can also indicate on the petition that they want to get involved with the student organizing efforts.