Immigration, Law School Deans, Law Schools

Update on Ted Vogt and the Immigration Law Controversy at the University of Arizona

Ted Vogt, University of Arizona 3L and Arizona Representative

Arizona’s harsh new immigration laws are causing debate across the country. Apparently, having to show your papers for being brown might not conform with federal law. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is considering getting involved, threatening to file a federal lawsuit against the state, according to the Washington Post, based on the “doctrine of ‘preemption’ — arguing that the state’s law illegally intrudes on immigration enforcement, which is a federal responsibility.”

As we’ve written before, the national debate has caused some local acrimony at the University of Arizona College of Law. Third-year law student Ted Vogt was appointed to the Arizona State House of Representatives in March, and voted yes on two of the controversial bills. Prior to becoming a state politician, he was voted by his classmates to represent the class as a student speaker at the Law Center’s graduation ceremony in May.

As the immigration debate heated up though, some students regretted their decision to give Vogt a platform. They said they wanted him to step down or they would protest by holding big signs, turning around when he speaks, handing out flyers, and demanding “a certified copy of his birth certificate” before he will be allowed to talk. A vicious debate broke out on the law school list-serv, between those who oppose and support Vogt, those who oppose and support the new immigration laws, and those who see the laws as fundamentally racist.

The dean has weighed in on the debate, stating that he is in support of both Vogt and those who wish to protest him. We also reached out to funny 3L and now-controversial politician Ted Vogt and have a statement from him…

In our initial post, we asked:

Given that Vogt has said he “would in all likelihood keep his comments congratulatory and not turn the forum into a political event,” it seems unfair of his classmates to ask him not to speak. [Vogt’s] fellow students certainly have the right to voice their opposition to his voting record in the House, but is the law school graduation ceremony really the right place to do it?

We posed the same question to Vogt. He responded with this statement:

My fellow classmates elected me to speak at our graduation well before I was appointed the Legislature and well before this controversy erupted. My plan now — as it was when I was elected to speak — is to talk about the times that we have shared over these past three years, the experiences that brought us together as a class, and those ideas that bring us together as future lawyers who desire to improve the law and the judicial process.

I have been heartened by so many of my classmates that have reached out to me, even those who vehemently disagree with my votes, and have asked me to still speak at graduation. My class is an incredible group of people. I respect them and trust their decisions with respect to our graduation ceremony.

That’s a very diplomatic statement. We can see why Vogt is finding success in the world of politics.

Dean Larry Ponoroff supports Vogt’s decision, and also the decisions of those who choose to protest — though he supports the latter a little bit less, judging from the tone of his statement:

If he chooses, Mr. Vogt, as one of the two student-elected speakers, will address the class as planned. Others may choose to express their disapproval in some fashion.

In my judgment, there is no appropriate institutional position but to respect these choices, and we do. I would, however, encourage each of you (as I have the students with whom I have already spoken) to bear in mind, and be respectful of, the fundamental reason that we are joining together with your family and friends on May 15.

Here is the full email that Dean Ponoroff sent out to the law school earlier this week.

EMAIL FROM UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA JAMES E. ROGERS COLLEGE OF LAW DEAN LARRY PONOROFF

I suspect it does not come as news to anyone that controversy has been swirling around in relation to one of the elected student speakers at our convocation on May 15. I have spoken with a few of you about this matter and, earlier this morning, met jointly with Mr. Vogt and a number of your other classmates who are deeply concerned by the situation.

I am comfortable, based on these conversations, that everyone involved in the discussion understands, and agrees with the fact, that this ceremony is about celebrating your graduation and your class’s collective achievements. If he chooses, Mr. Vogt, as one of the two student-elected speakers, will address the class as planned. Others may choose to express their disapproval in some fashion.

In my judgment, there is no appropriate institutional position but to respect these choices, and we do. I would, however, encourage each of you (as I have the students with whom I have already spoken) to bear in mind, and be respectful of, the fundamental reason that we are joining together with your family and friends on May 15.

Thank you. Larry Ponoroff


Justice Department considers suing Arizona to block immigration law [Washington Post]

Earlier: Immigration Debate Causes University of Arizona Law Students to Turn on Fellow 3L Ted Vogt

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