Since November 9, many in the University community have been having discussions and often vigorous arguments over what the best ways to respond to a Trump presidency are. For Carolyn Lipp ’14, the answer was rather simple: sue him. What better way to engage with the man who constantly threatens lawsuits than to bring one to him? Yet politics aside, the Yale Law student simply sees a wrongdoing that can be rectified through the court, in this case concerning Trump’s executive order banning immigration from citizens from seven chosen countries and refugees. The Argus caught up with Lipp to talk about the suit, her Wesleyan experience, and what advice she would give to current students.
The Argus: Can you walk us through how the lawsuit came about?
Carolyn Lipp ’14: Late Friday night, students in my clinic began receiving a flurry of emails. Becca Heller, a YLS alum who founded and now directs the International Refugee Assistance Project, wrote to our supervisor [Mike Wishnie] that an Iraqi man was being detained at JFK as a result of Trump’s [executive order] banning refugees from 7 Muslim-majority countries. She wanted help drafting a habeas petition to release this man from detention, and our supervisor forwarded that message to us. The response from lawyers and law students was immediate and overwhelming – in total, over 30 lawyers and students volunteered, working through the night. Hearing reports of many other similarly situated people stranded at airports all over the country, the legal team also decided to file a motion for class certification to represent the entire class of people in the same situation. The habeas petition and motion for class certification were filed at around 5:30am on Saturday morning in the Eastern District of New York (in Brooklyn) by my clinic (the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School), the International Refugee Assistance Project, the National Immigration Law Center, ACLU, and a private firm, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton.
A: What is the day to day work of working on the suit?
CL: Day to day, there is an enormous amount of energy and movement on the case. Around 30 students in my clinic are actively involved and are working almost non-stop in the law school. The tasks we’ve been working on include monitoring [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] compliance with the judge’s stay, responding to individuals in need of assistance and directing them to appropriate resources, communicating with co-counsel and other community groups working to protect those affected by the EO, conducting an enormous amount of legal research, and responding to press inquiries and the outpouring of community support. I am so inspired and in awe of my law school peers, many of whom have barely slept since beginning work on the case on Friday.
A: Where do you think the strongest points of your argument lie?
CL: I cannot comment on the substance of the case. If you’re interested, you can read all of the filings here.
A: What were some of the best aspects of your Wesleyan experience?
CL: My time at Wesleyan was, no exaggeration, the best 4 years of my life so far. I loved the sense of community and how people had such diverse interests but had a shared passion for social justice. I miss all of the activity going on in a single week – poetry slams, open mic nights, super interesting lectures, films, plays, dances, etc. Also, the chai lattes and salty ivans at Pi. SO GOOD. I hope they still serve those.
A: What’s one thing about Wesleyan you’d like to see changed or improved?
CL: When I was at Wesleyan, there did seem to be a general lack of involvement with the local community and Middletown community groups. There were some awesome opportunities to volunteer with certain populations, like children, the elderly, and incarcerated people, but it didn’t seem like there was a general connection to Middletown or an interest in what was going on locally. I’m not sure if the feeling of a “Wesleyan bubble” is still the case now – it seems like new student organizations like the Wesleyan Refugee Project are really re-shaping that culture and inspiring students to be more involved locally.
A: What about your Wesleyan education prepared you the most for your current work?
CL: I think the Wesleyan passion to use whatever tools we had to advance social justice causes has really helped ground me during this experience, and throughout law school generally. I try to narrow in on what’s important to do in a day by thinking through what’s at stake, what’s needed of me, and how I could use my time most effectively to meet that need.
A: What advice would you give current Wesleyan students?
CL: I would just say to do what you’re passionate about and don’t be shy to jump right in! I sometimes felt in college like I was unqualified to do a certain thing, but I’ve come to realize that most of us just learn as we go and practice the tried and true “fake it till you make it” strategy.
This is also an amazing time to be involved with larger movement-building and organizing. On Saturday evening, we found out that there would be a hearing at the Brooklyn EDNY courthouse at 7:30 pm. We had little time to get the word out, and were worried that nobody would turn out. But, alas, hundreds of people quickly mobilized and assembled outside the courthouse. And on little notice, thousands of protestors around the country showed up at airports to make their voices heard. It looks like we will be constantly tested over these next 4 years, and it is so important to keep showing up, making your voice heard, and forming allies across different issues.