Our story begins in or about 1875 when both Proskauer and Stillman College were founded. Fast forward almost 150 years when, this past summer, Stillman Professor Gordon Govens reached out to Proskauer. There have been graduates of Stillman, a small historically black college in Alabama, who have gone on to become lawyers but not until now had the school developed a formal prelaw program. Dr. Govens was formerly a practicing lawyer before his academic career and indeed, was an associate at Proskauer in the early 1990s. He thought that there might be a way for the two institutions to work together, and he was right.
Following my experience assisting immigrant families at the border, I have shared the story, the urgent challenges, and the need for change with many audiences. I have presented the same PowerPoint of my experience enough times that it’s now possible for me to click through the slides and images, words flowing easily, despite the devastating reality of the problem which is that families seeking asylum are freezing cold and hungry, held in cages and separated to disastrous effect. Over the past several months, I have at times felt numb to the injustice. But not last week.
Last week, for the second year in a row, Proskauer launched a series of Lawyering for Social Justice Workshops at John Jay College in Manhattan. The audience of mostly prelaw students are highly motivated and engaged. The students eagerly raised their hands with questions before I even got into a rhythm with the slides. Our lively conversation not only addressed recent changes in policy but included a broader discussion of immigration and how it fits into American ideals. Many of the students are either immigrants themselves or first-generation Americans. Many are also the first in their families to attend college.