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Seton Hall University

Law Professor Fighting for Immigrant Rights Featured in Media  

Prof nesselIn recent months Professor Lori Nessel, director of the Law School’s Center for Social Justice, has been featured on NPR, in USA Today, The Atlantic, the Star Ledger, and She was interviewed and cited regarding immigration law and the various and potential repercussions of recent changes in immigration policy under the Trump administration as well as the need for attorneys to help ensure fairness, due process and promote change.

In addition to her role as director of the Center for Social Justice, Professor Nessel teaches Immigration and Naturalization Law and the Immigrants' Rights/International Human Rights Clinic. In the Center for Social Justice clinics, teams of students take on real cases for real clients under the supervision of an attorney professor. In addition to managing an active caseload of clients, the Center also regularly publishes research on matters affecting legal and human rights— research that is often used by other attorneys and frequently cited by media.

A Star Ledger article cited Professor Nessel’s recent research, "Deportation Without Representation: The Access-to-Justice Crisis Facing New Jersey's Immigrant Families," showing the impact that legal representation can have in the outcome of immigration proceedings.

The Star Ledger writes:


A report she co-authored last year for Seton Hall's Immigrants' Rights and International Human Rights Clinic found those appearing in immigration courts are more likely to prevail if they have legal representation. But two-thirds of those detained were without attorneys at any point in their removal proceedings. At the same time, non-profit organizations represented significantly fewer detainees than it did those who were not being held, regardless of their caseload.

"This means that adults and even unaccompanied children who cannot afford to hire counsel must argue on their own against trained government prosecutors," the report said. "Considering the potentially life-threatening consequences of a removal order and the very limited process available in immigration court, experts have likened removal proceedings to trying 'death penalty cases in traffic court.'"

Information Sessions

SHU Law SchoolIn addition to offering free legal representation to immigrants facing these consequences, Professor Nessel along with other professors from the Center for Social Justice and law students, have engaged the community in a series of information sessions. These sessions were set at various locations throughout New Jersey to educate the public, hospital staff and social services personnel, lawyers and even judges about the impact of these recent changes in immigration policy, and to offer guidance going forward.

As reported by USA Today in an article entitled "In New Jersey, fight continues against immigration orders," the initiation of the Trump administration's immigration and travel ban policies coupled with a blanket ban on refugees was met by a great deal of confusion, misinformation and rumor.

USA Today writes:

Legal officials and rights groups say they've gotten calls seeking information about the orders -- not just from people who were locked out but also from those anxious about future travel and deportations.

"There are reports of chaos and very different things happening in terms of how far this is going, and generally a climate of fear because no one knows what is coming next,'' said Lori A. Nessel, a professor who teaches immigrant rights at Seton Hall University and was speaking at an information session Thursday.

"There are incredible rumors, and no one knows if they are rumors, if they are going to be the next executive order what other countries might be put on list."

In this information session and others like it, Professor Nessel and The Center for Social Justice offered facts and guidance to those in need. featured a recent teaching expedition, noting that

"'Immigrants' Rights and Social Justice' was the topic of a presentation offered on April 5 by Lori Nessel, J.D., professor of law at Seton Hall University in Newark, to nearly 200 physicians, nurses, clinical support and administrative staff in the Sister Marie de Pazzi Conference Center at Saint Peter's University Hospital in New Brunswick. Nessel explained the history of immigration law, Trump administration executive orders on immigration, recent court decisions blocking those orders, and the possible future of immigration policy and rules."

In, in an article entitled "Trump immigration orders worry N.J. hospitals," they covered another information session Nessel held in Paterson, NJ, noting that her advice ranged from "the practical to the inspirational" and that:

Beyond the nation's airports and borders, the effects of President Trump's executive orders on immigration have reached into hospitals in New Jersey and around the country – touching doctors, medical residents, staff and patients.

"It's hard to imagine a venue where the executive orders on immigration would have a bigger impact than a hospital," said Lori A. Nessel, a professor at Seton Hall Law School and director of its Center for Social Justice, speaking Thursday in Paterson to 150 staffers, students and physicians of St. Joseph's Healthcare System.

Medical Repatriation

Law SchoolAs noted, Nessel has visited a number of hospitals in recent months as immigration issues often intersect with medical and emergency care as well as physicians and staff— and patients. Patient issues can go beyond the need for immediate care and sometimes include the practice known as "medical repatriation" or "medical deportation." Medical deportation or "repatriation" is the process by which an undocumented immigrant (normally without health insurance) is returned to their native country directly from hospital care after the hospital has deemed the immigrant to have been "stabilized."

As National Public Radio noted in a feature interview with Professor Nessel on the subject, "The Ends of Health Care: When Deportation Hits Hospitals ," Nessel "authored the first nation-wide report tracking medical repatriations." Most often these "medical deportations" are privately undertaken by the hospitals themselves, without oversight or involvement from the federal government or the benefit of legal counsel for the patients. Professor Nessel's work has helped bring awareness to the fight against the practice, which has often had dire effect for those subjected to it.

Shortage of Attorneys... and Judges

In the context of immigration law, the shortage of legal counsel available to those subject to the newly enhanced machinations of immigration policy was noted time and time again in these media pieces. However, in an article in the Star Ledger, "Why New Jersey's immigration court has one of the highest backlog of cases in the nation," a dire shortage of immigration judges, coupled with a hiring freeze, was also cited as a cause for backlog in what Professor Nessel referred to as a system that was already "notoriously overburdened."

The Star Ledger reports,

"Nessel, who teaches immigration law, said with the new administration's call for even tougher enforcement, widening the net for cases considered priorities for deportation, the system is likely to become unbearably backlogged, or force the spending for additional judges, new detention centers and hiring of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE agents, that she said 'will come at incredible cost.'"


As bad as the shortage of resources, judges and low cost or no cost attorneys in New Jersey and the United States may be, this article in The Atlantic makes abundantly clear that it is worse in Haiti. Far worse, but perhaps getting better.

The article, "Establishing the rule of law in a country where justice hardly exists ," primarily focuses on the effort to inculcate justice through legal education, specifically through the efforts of one of the country's three law schools.

Professor Nessel and Seton Hall Law's Center for Social Justice have long been a part of the effort to bring justice through legal education to Haiti, primarily through their work with "École Supérieure Catholique de Droit de Jérémie (ESCDROJ), the Catholic law school in the town of Jérémie that is featured as a source of hope in The Atlantic article.

As the article notes,

"Throughout the years … the [Haitian] school has maintained partnerships with several American law schools: The Columbus School of Law at Catholic University, Seton Hall University's School of Law, and the University of California Hastings College of the Law regularly fundraise and bring students and faculty to Jérémie to provide trainings in special topics."

Seton Hall began its partnership with the Haitian law school in 2002, and law students and professors (including Professor Nessel who directs the program) have traveled to Haiti many times since. The program, known as "Haiti Rule of Law," has also worked with those in Haitian prisons. The prisons in Haiti are known to be among the worst in the Western Hemisphere and approximately 85% of prisoners have not been convicted of a crime, yet they languish in atrocious conditions for years awaiting their day in court. The United States courts have described Haiti's prison conditions as akin to those that existed on slave ships.

The shortage of lawyers in Haiti, due in part to a costly and byzantine process for attorney licensure, is in some part to blame for these conditions and the backlog of cases that have these prisons bursting at their squalid seams.

The Atlantic article notes,

Lori Nessel, a law professor at Seton Hall who has close ties with ESCDROJ, explained that the overly rigorous requirements create a paradox of human resources: "In order to become a lawyer in Haiti, you have to have a lawyer supervise you," she said. "In a country with a shortage of lawyers, it is very difficult to grow new ones."


Star Ledger, "Do immigrants facing deportation have a right to an attorney? "

The Atlantic, "Establishing the rule of law in a country where justice hardly exists"

USA Today, "In New Jersey, Fight Continues Against Immigration Orders," 

NPR, "The Ends of Health Care,", "Trump Immigration Orders Worry NJ Hospitals"

Star Ledger , "Why New Jersey's Immigration Court Has One of the Highest Backlogs of Cases in the Nation, "The Daily Rundown

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