“No Trump Henchmen Should Be Given a Platform to Spread Hatred.”
WASHINGTON, DC — Activists from CREDO Action, Justice for Muslims Collective, La ColectiVA, National Immigrant Justice Center, and Sanctuary DMV disrupted a controversial keynote speech by acting Homeland Security head Kevin McAleenan and forced him off the stage at the annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference at Georgetown University Law Center. Protests also took place outside the event, led by GULC students from Hoyas for Immigration Justice.
A few minutes into McAleenan’s speech, half a dozen activists dropped banners from the audience reading “Stand with immigrants,” “Hate is not normal,” and “Why are you listening to this crook?,” while chanting “When immigrants are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” Members of the audience joined in, and GULC students also read the names of children who died in Customs and Border Patrol’s custody.
McAleenan was forced to abandon his keynote and leave the stage without getting further than thanking the conference hosts. Video can be found here.
“No Trump henchmen should be given a platform to spread hatred or defend the racist, xenophobic policies put into place by Donald Trump and Stephen Miller,” said CREDO Action campaign director Nicole Regalado, who disrupted McAleenan’s speech. “Institutions that elevate the architects and enforcers of Trump’s hate and normalize that cruelty can expect to hear from us.”
This disruption comes after CREDO Action organized an open letter urging the ILPC conveners – the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), and GULC – to rescind McAleenan’s invitation. MPI and CLINIC refused, citing conference tradition while acknowledging “that this administration has advanced policies that are antithetical to longstanding national ideals and interests.” The letter was co-signed by ActionAid USA, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, Detention Watch Network, Indivisible, Justice for Muslims Collective, La ColectiVA, Mijente, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, National Immigrant Justice Center, RAICES, Sanctuary DMV, and Undocublack Network.
The open letter states: “People like McAleenan who are carrying out and championing [Trump’s and Miller’s] policies should not be treated as if their positions on immigration are reasonable or legitimate in any way. McAleenan is enforcing policies that perpetuate family separation and state-sanctioned child abuse. He has withheld information and intentionally misled Congress about the administration’s systematic circumvention of migrants’ due process rights. No institution should give McAleenan a rubber stamp of approval or megaphone to spread more hate and lies, especially organizations working toward a more compassionate and humane immigration system.”
A petition organized by GULC students which garnered over 350 signatures from fellow students and faculty was delivered last week to Dean William Treanor went unanswered. Treanor chose instead to send an email to students, faculty, and staff denoting specific areas to protest McAleenan.
“By inviting McAleenan as a keynote speaker, Georgetown doesn’t merely enable a Trump henchman carrying out the ugliest impulses of this administration, it emboldens and ennobles him and the pernicious practices he promotes,” said GULC professor Abbe Smith.
“We cannot have rule of law unless the legal academy distinguishes between raw power and legally constrained governance. That is a distinction the Trump administration refuses to accept, and nowhere has this more evident than in the policies and operations of the Department of Homeland Security and its subsidiary, Customs and Border Patrol,” said GULC professor Heidi Li Feldman. “As a teacher and scholar of American law, I reject the use of Georgetown University Law School as a vehicle for legitimizing fundamental and pervasive lawless government policies and activities. The decision to invite Kevin McAleenan to keynote a conference on immigration law is an insult to all those who have suffered at the hands of a discriminatory and cruel DHS.”
“I oppose the vicious policies perpetrated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for the deaths, separation, and unnecessary suffering of thousands upon thousands of men, women and children. These policies, and the officers who devise and carry them out, deserve to be exposed for their inhumanity, held to account, not celebrated,” said GULC professor Allegra McLeod. “I am heartened that student organizers at the Law Center are calling for a radically different conception of immigration justice, one that is welcoming, and that learns from and lifts up the experiences and ideas of immigrants rather than powerful officials like McAleenan who brutalize them.”
“Under McAleenan, CBP and ICE have carried out atrocity after atrocity, from criminal neglect of people in their custody to family separation to outright murder,” said Sanctuary DMV organizer Brandon Wu. “Anyone overseeing an agency committing crimes against humanity has no welcome in our community.”
“In a time of overt and explicit targeting of immigrants and/or people of color, the decision to bring McAleenan, Acting Secretary of DHS to keynote an immigration conference dedicated to providing ‘solutions,’ was an act of sheer violence,” said Justice for Muslims Collective co-director Dr. Maha Hilal. “Moreover, the call for protestors to stop interrupting his speech, was indicative of how much the academics, advocates, and others in this sphere of work, tolerate the state’s violent policies in the name of free speech and objectivity. As an organization that empowers Muslims, we know that giving a platform to espouse hate, is to legitimize vitriolic speech and nothing less.”
In addition to pressure on current Trump officials and the institutions that are normalizing them, progressive groups have pushed hard over the past few months to make it difficult for former Trump administration officials to rehabilitate their images or profit from their malfeasance and cruelty. They have spoken out against ABC’s inclusion of Sean Spicer on Dancing with the Stars, Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ book deal and recently forced former DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to back out of the 2019 Atlantic Fest.
In 2018, after the death of a 7-year-old asylum-seeker in Customs and Border Patrol custody, CREDO Action confronted then-CBP head McAleenan directly by putting a projection on his home, calling on him to resign. CREDO Action also held a protest at Nielsen’s home, playing audio of crying children who had been separated from their families at the border.
More images from the disruption:
CREDO Action co-director Josh Nelson and social media coordinator Jen Amuzie disrupt acting DHS head Kevin McAleenan’s keynote and prevent him from speaking at the 2019 Immigration Law and Policy Conference.
Georgetown University Law Center students prevent acting DHS head Kevin McAleenan from speaking by reading the names of children who died while in CBP custody.