Black Lives Matter.

I grew up in a pretty traditional South Asian household. I’ve tried talking about the Black Lives Matter movement numerous times before, but my family just didn’t seem too invested in it. Most of the time, I would just give up. Because it was just too frustrating.

But that’s the problem, right? These are just events that we hear about or see in the news, just optional conversations that we can opt in or out of. But for black people in America, this is reality. It’s not just another life lost; it is yet another manifestation of the unhinged, systemic racism that we all allow to continue and continue to allow.

Black people in America don’t get to choose to live in constant fear. They don’t get to choose that law enforcement dehumanizes them. So it feels inherently wrong that my community gets to choose whether or not we care.

 

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Together in a Time of Crisis

BC Law Dean Vincent Rougeau sent the letter below earlier this week to the BC Law community, and I thought it was important enough to share here on BC Law Impact. I have also written about this issue in my recent post Black Lives Matter.

Dear members of BC Law community:

I know the pain that you are feeling because I am feeling it too. And I am tired. So very, very tired. I am tired of writing these letters over and over again. As a Black man with three sons, I am tired of the fear I must carry when they are out moving through their lives in a country where the lives of people of color are so easily extinguished. I am tired of the sickening legacy of racism in this county and of being told not to talk about it because it makes people uncomfortable. Our nation is in crisis and we cannot continue to ignore the fact that the fabric of our society is being shredded by many among us who refuse to recognize our shared humanity.

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Visiting the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Impact is running a series of posts on student reflections from their Spring Break Service Trips and experiential work last month. Find the first post here, and the second post here. These posts were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we think the messages are too important to go unshared. Today’s post is from Marija Tesla, who writes about her experience as part of BC Law’s International Human Rights Practicum visit to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Stay safe everyone, and please reach out to us at bclawimpact@bc.edu if we can do anything to help, or if you would like us to consider publishing a guest post on your own experiences during the outbreak.


When Professor Daniela Urosa chose me to be a part of the inaugural International Human Rights Practicum, to say that I was elated would be an understatement. It was a dream come true for me! She told me that it was a dream come true for her as well. Having guided instruction from her in our weekly meetings and in her seminar is the best part of my law school experience thus far. I am truly grateful to her and to Boston College Law School for making this clinic a reality. I know that it involved many years of hard work on the part of many, including Professor Judith McMorrow and Professor Daniel Kanstroom. 

My partner in the clinic is Nadia Bouquet, who is an LL.M. student from Paris, France, studying at Université Paris Nanterre. We are working on writing an amicus brief to submit to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) which relates to a case that is going to be heard by the Court in San José, Costa Rica later this year. There are six of us in the clinic, and we work in pairs of two on one amicus brief, each amicus relating to a different case and a different set of issues. Four of us are J.D. candidates and two are LL.M. candidates, which makes the conversations and the work that much richer. Most of us are also transnational thinkers, speaking multiple languages and having lived in different parts of the globe. We recognize the importance of IACtHR, which is an amalgamation of both the civil and common law, while also being its own unique regional system. It is why it is great to have students with such diverse backgrounds and different lived experiences who also come from both of the legal systems in the clinic, and who appreciate both the importance and complexity of international law and regional systems. 

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Miami Service Trip: Catholic Legal Services

Impact is running a series of posts on student experiences during their Spring Break Service Trips last month. Find the first post here. These posts were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we think the messages are too important to go unshared. We will share our third post tomorrow.

Stay safe everyone, and please reach out to us at bclawimpact@bc.edu if we can do anything to help, or if you would like us to consider publishing a guest post on your own experiences during the outbreak.


Spring break is often seen as a way to relax from the rigors of law school and recharge for the sprint to the end of the school year. But for 65 first-year students, Spring Break was a way to get a taste for what working in the public interest field entails. The trips ranged from helping Native American legal offices to aiding asylum-seeking immigrants living in Miami.

In addition to raising their own money to go on these service trips, students were broken up into teams assigned to these different cities, working for different pro-bono organizations.

Four students traveled to Miami to volunteer at Catholic Legal Services in Miami. Below they reflect on their favorite parts of the trip.

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BC Law’s Spring Break Pro Bono Trips: Executing Law in Alabama

In the past few weeks the world has changed in ways most of us could never have imagined. While much remains unknown, one thing remains stable—the sense of community that both comforts and uplifts us, even in the midst of trying times.

The post below is a riveting reflection from 1L Ryan Kenney, who was among a group of BC Law students on this year’s Gulf Coast Pro-Bono Spring Break trip to Montgomery, Alabama. It was scheduled to be posted several weeks ago, but was postponed due to the emergency situation COVID-19 created. That said, we think the message is too important to go unshared. We will share several other related service trip stories this week.

Stay safe everyone, and please reach out to us at bclawimpact@bc.edu if we can do anything to help, or if you would like us to consider publishing a guest post on your own experiences during the outbreak.


When people asked us where we were from and we replied that we were on spring break from Boston College Law School, gently raised eyebrows and clarifying questions invariably followed. As if on cue, our neighbor on the puddle jumper from Charlotte, then the barista, the lobbyist in the state house elevator, and virtually everyone else we encountered who wasn’t already expecting us conferred a “Well, welcome to Alabama!” and a warm smile.

This week, we witnessed how people make, interpret, and execute laws in Alabama.

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Why the Pass/Fail Policy Matters

I’ll be honest. When I first read the email about the pass/fail policy this semester, I was upset. I have been working really hard this semester to boost my GPA, and I was looking forward to the chance to improve my performance during finals. I’ve been pretty anxious about this whole COVID-19 situation, and I felt like this was not the news I wanted to hear.

And then I took a deep breath and counted my blessings. After putting everything into perspective, I realized how much this pass/fail policy might mean to someone who is facing more difficulties than me right now. Throughout my time at law school, I have gotten involved in various diversity initiatives because I’m a woman of color and I know this puts me at a systemic disadvantage. I fight for these causes because they personally affect me. If I am so quick to stand up for causes that personally affect me, I should also be as committed to standing up even when my own interests might not be at stake.

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United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind: On Gaining Citizenship & Losing Identity

What is one promise you make when you become a United States citizen? To give up loyalty to other countries.

I remember this very question from my parents’ civics test as part of their naturalization process. We moved here from India in 1998 on an H1-B visa, eventually became permanent residents, and then finally became citizens in 2012. I didn’t have to take the citizenship test myself since I was a minor, but I remember helping my parents study. This one question in particular made me pause and realize how significant this step was for us, ceremonially: we were officially becoming Americans now.

It’s a real privilege to become a United States citizen, and I’m not sure how many American-born people realize what immigrants give up – both physically and symbolically – and how grateful they are to become citizens. That’s why it stings when throughout history, American-ness has been conflated with whiteness, and this sentiment lingers to this very day. I’m especially reminded of this bitter truth today because February 19 marks the anniversary of a particular SCOTUS case decision that hits close to home: United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind (1923).

Thind, an Indian Sikh man, had come to the United States in 1913. Having obtained a bachelors degree from India, he wanted to further his education at the University of California Berkeley. He enlisted in the US Army, served in WWI, and was discharged honorably in 1918. After his discharge, he applied for citizenship in Oregon state, and was granted naturalization. Yet, soon after he became naturalized, an examiner appealed the decision. Thus began the fight for citizenship that eventually reached the Supreme Court. Thind’s citizenship was challenged because of the statutes of the time. The Naturalization Act of 1790 restricted naturalization to ‘any free white person’ of ‘good character’ and the Naturalization Act of 1870 extended citizenship to ‘aliens of African nativity and persons of African descent.’ In the Ozawa case the previous year, a Japanese-American man petitioned for naturalization on the grounds that he was white in skin color. In that case, the Supreme Court held that ‘white’ meant Caucasian, and hence denied him from gaining citizenship. The Ozawa case is a striking example of how whiteness was used as a defining factor of someone’s worthiness to be American.

Thind, relying on the Ozawa case rationale, used anthropological texts and studies to argue that he was from North India, the original home of the Aryan conquerors, and so that meant he was of Caucasian descent. Further, he argued that as a high-caste Indian himself, he had a repugnance towards marrying a “low-caste” Indian woman. One line from his actual argument reads: “the high-caste Hindu regards the aboriginal Indian Mongoloid in the same manner as the American regards the Negro” (note that the term ‘Hindu’ at the time was used not to describe religion, but as a racial and geographical marker). Despite his assertions, the court unanimously decided against Thind, upholding that Indian people are not white and cannot become citizens. This decision was not overruled until President Truman signed the Luce-Cellar Act of 1946.

It hurts that Thind was denied citizenship because of his ethnicity, but it pains me even more that he himself tried to disown his heritage. In both the Ozawa and Thind cases, these men didn’t challenge the discriminatory nature of the racial criteria, but instead contended that they were white, too. Maybe they didn’t think it was possible to win by challenging the racist motivations behind the laws of their day, or maybe they genuinely wanted to be white in order to fully belong. Either way, this mindset of being different than other minority groups, of somehow being “more white” lingers to this day.

The model minority stereotype today paints the narrative that Asian-Americans are the paragon of immigrant success stories. It perpetuates the idea that Asians achieve higher in education, rise to higher socioeconomic statuses, and overall attain more prosperity than other groups. This blanket statement undermines the diversity inherent within Asian-American experiences. Moreover, by creating a hierarchy and placing Asians at the top, this myth furthers racial wedges between minority groups, maintaining a sense of division among people of color. It advances the same problematic sentiment present in Thind’s argument, that we Asian immigrants are somehow better; under this logic, our status is more close to that of white people, and hence, we are more American.

The Thind case reminds me that the life of an immigrant is one of sacrifice: we leave behind our homes, our families, and everything we’ve ever known. But we give all this up with hope, because we love this country and have faith in the opportunities available for us here. We take an oath to ‘defend the Constitution and laws of the United States’, to ‘do important work for the nation if needed’. We are proud Americans, too. Please, do not pit us against other minority groups or make us give up the very essence of our identities to prove it.

Roma Gujarathi is a first-year student. She loves hearing from readers: email her at roma.gujarathi@bc.edu.

Korematsu Day: Looking Back on a Supreme Court Decision

On December 7, 1941, Japanese forces attacked U.S. naval base Pearl Harbor, resulting in the United States’ declaration of war on Japan. President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously referred to the bombing of Pearl Harbor as “a date which will live in infamy.” 

In February 1942, ten weeks after the United States entered World War II, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066—the authorization of the armed forces to mass transport and relocate all people of Japanese ancestry into “internment camps” in the name of national security. The order affected the lives of over 100,000 people, the majority of whom were American citizens. It also opened the door to an ugly chapter of American history—one of fear, xenophobia, and unbridled racism. 

On the home front, Anti-Japanese war propaganda fueled America’s hatred and paranoia. Such propaganda portrayed the Japanese as monkeys, rats, and snakes—often depicted preying on white American women to further incite anger and fear. 

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Fighting for Juvenile Rights: Why You Should Consider JRAP

Lawyers have their own language. It might be a little frustrating at times, but that is the reason we spend three painful years in law school learning how to think, speak, and write like lawyers. By the time we pass the bar, we have been equipped with a roadmap that allows us to navigate the complex legal arena. Of course, we are not the only profession with its own language. In fact, almost all professions have terminology that is commonly understood by those within the profession, but confusing to those outside of it.

This year I am participating in Boston College’s Juvenile Rights Advocacy program, and I am busy learning yet another language. Do you know what the acronym IEP stands for? Have you ever heard the terms FAPE? What is the difference between the BSEA and OCR? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, don’t worry, many people don’t know them.  IEP stands for Individual Education Plan, and as the name suggests, it’s an educational term. The BSEA is a court that is used to resolve education disputes; it stands for Bureau of Special Education Appeals. The OCR stands for Office of Civil Rights, which is another court that can be used for certain types of education related claims. FAPE is a legal term that stands Free Appropriate Public Education, which is a federal right and typically the basis for the claims that would be brought in front of the BSEA or OCR. As for CRA, it is not strictly an education term, however, many children who require specialized education services also require the help that a CRA grants. CRA stands for Child Requiring Assistance, and parents file them with the courts when they need the courts help to supervise their children. 

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A Look Back at an “Impactful” 2019

What a ride 2019 has been! I hope you all are enjoying a well-deserved break — baking on a beach somewhere warm — now that the semester is done and over with (whoo!).

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Wrapping up a year full of ups and downs, we wanted to highlight a few of the most popular posts by our amazing writers at BC Law Impact:

With that, thank you for following BC Law Impact, happy holidays, remember to re-apply sunblock every 3 hours, and we look forward to seeing everyone in 2020!


Jae Lee is a second-year student who loves hearing from readers. Contact him at leecot@bc.edu.