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    05.23.13 Professor Mark Noferi and BLS Students Advocate for National Reform for Immigrants’ Rights

    Immigrants detained in deportation proceedings deserve legal representation, writes Professor Mark Noferi in a new Slate op-ed—a right that “criminal defendants have received for 50 years.” While other elements of immigration reform spark controversy, providing lawyers to detainees “would be a surprisingly easy sell politically,” he writes. Professor Noferi adds that lawyers “pay for themselves” by increasing efficiency, reducing detention, and lowering societal costs of caring for abandoned children.  

    The Slate op-ed is one of several recently published pieces in which Professor Noferi gives voice to immigrants’ rights, including a Michigan Journal of Race & Law article, “Cascading Constitutional Deprivation: The Right To Appointed Counsel For Mandatorily Detained Immigrants Pending Removal Proceedings” (2012), and several guest blog posts on appointed counsel and detention reform.  In an interview with CNBC today, Professor Noferi also singled out pending immigration legislation provisions on border security. “The bill doesn’t say it clear out, but in my opinion it creates a DMZ like North and South Korea, except [it’s] between the U.S. and Mexico—our third largest trading partner,” he told CNBC.

    Policymakers have taken notice of Professor Noferi’s expertise as well. After the Senate introduced its new immigration bill, the New York City Bar Association cited Professor Noferi’s work in their materials supporting appointed counsel and reduced detention. He later met with Congressional staff as part of the City Bar Immigration and Nationality Committee, which the Senate Judiciary Committee then solicited to help analyze more than 300 proposed amendments. Within hours, Professor Noferi and the City Bar’s rapid-response team, assisted by BLS students Heather Oh ’13, Timothy Poodiack ’14, Erin Ryan ’15, Jared Brenner ’15, and Jonathan Myers ’15, drafted analyses for the Senate staff’s use in the next day’s hearing.

    This emphasis on student involvement has defined Professor Noferi’s teaching at BLS. In his Constitutional Civil Rights & Immigration Seminar, he discusses cutting-edge immigrants’ rights issues—and then students can take action. Most recently, Mary Bruch ’14, Beile Lindner ’13, Alexandra Olsen ’13, and Alex O’Sullivan-Pierce ’13 assisted in filing Freedom of Information Act requests regarding Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE’s) new computerized tool to assess risk and make detention decisions.

    The FOIA requests are timely: immigration detention—a.k.a. “immcarceration”—will affect nearly 429,000 immigrants this year, Professor Noferi noted. And as he co-wrote in a Newark Star-Ledger op-ed, ICE’s “computers now determine immigrants’ liberty based on secret algorithms, which ICE officers must presumptively follow.” This method raises serious transparency and civil liberties concerns, Professor Noferi said, which he and his students will analyze using ICE’s responses. “Brooklyn gives students a great opportunity to advocate for change on issues they care about,” he added.

    Professor Noferi has also taken students to City Bar meetings, where they can discuss immigration reform with practitioners, professors, and advocates working in the field. The visits “open doors not only to professional contacts, but also incredible learning experiences for students,” he said. 

    Among those students was Rebecca McBride ‘13, head of BLS’ Immigration Court Observation Project, whose City Bar visit coincided with President Obama’s unveiling of his comprehensive immigration reform plan. “At the City Bar meeting, I not only witnessed how practicing immigration lawyers analyzed potential changes in the law, but also how they organized to actively participate in shaping these laws,” McBride said. “They did not sit silently and wait for change to befall them.  Rather, they pressed for change in the most problematic areas.” 

    Professor Noferi’s work adds a new dimension to BLS’s award-winning immigration programs. The Safe Harbor Clinic, headed by Professor Stacy Caplow, Director of the Law School’s Clinical Education Program, and Associate Professor Dan Smulian, received an award from the New York City Council last summer for its decades of helping persecuted immigrants find refuge in America. Professor Maryellen Fullerton, recipient of a Fulbright Scholar’s award, is currently researching EU and U.S. legal responses to refugee forced migration, her field of specialty. And Lauren Burke, creator of BLS’s new Immigrant Youth Law Clinic, was named to the Forbes30 Under 30” list of lawyers making an impact.

    Before joining Brooklyn Law School’s legal writing faculty in 2010, Professor Noferi was a Public Interest Fellow at the Seton Hall Center for Social Justice, where he supervised law students on immigrants’ rights litigation such as constitutional challenges to ICE home raids and day laborers’ wage and hour claims.  Professor Noferi clerked for the Hon. Harold Baer, Jr. of the Southern District of New York.  Prior to law school, he served as a speechwriter for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Mayor Anthony Williams of Washington, D.C.