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Obama homeland security chief withdraws as graduation speaker following protests

Law school dean told him that faculty and students had ‘concerns’

Believe it or not, some critics of the Trump administration’s border enforcement policies are aware that the prior administration started the ball rolling on “family detention.”

Unfortunately for the cause of academic freedom, they are using that knowledge to drive away a graduation speaker whose views differ from theirs.

Jeh Johnson, the second-term secretary of homeland security in the Obama administration, withdrew from speaking at the University of Southern California’s law school commencement after Dean Andrew Guzman told him it was drawing protests.

Legal blog Above the Law has the letter from Guzman to the community:

I informed Secretary Johnson that some faculty and students have raised concerns about the immigration policies of the Obama Administration and, therefore, about having him as our commencement speaker. Secretary Johnson shared with me that he believes that graduations should be free of tension and political controversy and for this reason has decided not to speak.

It sounds like Guzman was asking Johnson to withdraw, and Johnson took the hint. It’s an indirect disinvitation, and should be added to the “disinvitation database” maintained by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

It’s not the first time protesters have tried to deplatform Johnson. Three years ago, Georgetown University students who are in the country illegally and their allies demanded that the School of Foreign Service disinvite Johnson as commencement speaker, saying he makes them feel unsafe.

MORE: Georgetown students try to deplatform Johnson for Obama policies

As for how many USC law faculty and students were protesting, Above the Law cites an open letter to Guzman from “the two Chicano members” of the law faculty, Daria Roithmayr and David Cruz, that denounces the law school for contradicting its “strong commitment to immigrants’ rights” by inviting Johnson to speak.

He reinstated the “devastating practice of aggressively detaining immigrant families who were fleeing violence” in Central America, citing deterrence as the aim, the professors wrote, linking to several news articles on the toll the detention took on families. The federal courts have thoroughly rebuked the action and Johnson’s justification for it, they said.

The secretary’s earlier career is also marked by his “willingness to use government-sponsored force without proper legal restraint,” the professors wrote, citing Johnson’s tenure as general counsel in the Department of Homeland Security. They cited a Yale Law School speech he gave defending “targeted violence against US citizens” as a “core function of the executive branch.”

Inviting Johnson to speak “normalizes illegal state violence” and “legitimates” the “fundamental betrayal of core values” as recognized by the courts. He has shown a “morally repugnant willingness to use those who are most vulnerable among us as means to an end.”

While the letter claims the two Chicanos are objecting on behalf of “our students” as well as “the law school community,” it has no other signatures than theirs.

Above the Law claims there was also a “letter campaign” by “others around USC” to echo the professors’ concerns to Guzman, but does not provide documentation.

Read the post and the professors’ letter.

MORE: Leftists attempted 7 times more disinvitations than conservatives

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg Piper served as associate editor of The College Fix from 2014 to 2021.