Students protest LexisNexis and Westlaw over contracts with ICE, CBP

Image: 

Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash

A coalition of law students at 20 schools around the country have targeted two unlikely companies in their fight against perceived ruthlessness in enforcing immigration law.

The group, named the End the Contract Coalition, is asking their schools to cut ties with LexisNexis and Westlaw, the two biggest repositories of case law and law review articles in the country. Both companies have contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

“We know that law schools are relying on these tools, but it doesn't absolve the culpability and the role that they play in funding and fueling these violent deportations and detentions,” said Peyton Jacobsen, a Seattle University Law School student who helped organize open letters at 20 schools and protests at five.

LexisNexis signed a $16.8 million contract with ICE at the beginning of 2021. Thomson Reuters, the parent company of Westlaw, has had active contracts with ICE since 2015, in addition to other active contracts with the Department of Homeland Security.

“Pretty much every organization that you would work for after graduating and during your internships utilizes one of these two services,” said Marisa O’Toole, a New York University law school student involved in the coalition.

A Thomson Reuters spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill that the company’s products do not contain data on immigration or citizenship status.

The students contend that the data contained in the databases can be cobbled together to form dossiers on individuals.

Sarah Lamdan, a City University of New York law professor, said the two companies are “information monopolies.”

“They’re the gold standard to the extent that some judges won’t even accept lawyers’ work unless they cite Westlaw or Lexis,” she said.

Lamdan notes, however, that there is hope that these protests can bring awareness to the issue and let more companies into the space to provide healthy competition.