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Petition urges Northeastern to drop ICE as co-op employer

The day before a scheduled campus protest against Northeastern University’s $2.7 million research contract with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, law students at the school are calling on the university not to promote ICE as an employer for co-ops.

A petition started by third-year Northeastern School of Law student Meghan Thomas urges the university to stop assisting students to land internships with ICE, which has come under criticism for its aggressive policies during the Trump administration.

“I came to Northeastern because of their outlook on social justice and human rights, and they were very pro-human rights and immigrant rights,” Thomas said. “I personally feel that the school promoting an organization like ICE . . . is very contrary to the Northeastern University School of Law.”

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Thomas said she was shocked when she went to Northeastern’s employment site for law school students and saw a fall co-op position listed for the ICE Office of Policy in Washington, D.C.

A Web screenshot sent to the Globe shows a listing described as an “apply direct” position, meaning the co-op office has “decided to provide all the necessary information on the website for students wanting to work there,” but does not personally collect or send applications, Thomas said.

The position is listed as unpaid.

In a statement, Northeastern said it places co-ops with more than 3,000 employers.

“While we realize that some organizations elicit strong political views, this should never prohibit tuition-paying students from seeking opportunities to further their education,” the statement said. “Students’ academic and professional goals should not be curtailed by social or political pressure.”

Thomas said that students are free to develop their own connections with ICE and pursue a co-op that way.

“We are all free to enter the legal world however we want to, so long as the work we do is true to who we are as individuals,” she said by e-mail. “I agree that it would be unfair to prohibit students from taking on a particular kind of job but that doesn’t mean that we have to help students get jobs with agencies accused of committing human rights abuses.”

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The petition circulated on social media on Tuesday. As of Tuesday afternoon, about 50 people had signed it.

Nearly 2,000 students, faculty members, and other university employees have signed a petition calling for the cancelation of the university’s research contract with ICE.

Northeastern defended the research on the basis of academic freedom, and said the research is not directly linked to issues of immigration and detention. But activists said it is wrong to collaborate with ICE in any way.

On Monday, consultancy firm McKinsey & Company said it had stopped doing management consulting for ICE, after it was revealed it had been paid more than $20 million by the agency and employees began to express concern, The New York Times reported. The firm’s managing partner said that it would not “engage in any work, anywhere in the world, that advances or assists policies that are at odds with our values.”

The campus rally is scheduled for noon Wednesday.


J.D. Capelouto can be reached at jd.capelouto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jdcapelouto.