Stephen Legomsky

John S. Lehmann University Professor Emeritus, School of Law

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Legomsky is an authority on U.S., comparative, and international immigration, refugee, and citizenship law and policy. He took a leave of absence from 2011 to 2013 to serve as Chief Counsel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the immigration services agency in the Department of Homeland Security. He has testified before Congress many times and has served as a consultant to the transition teams of Presidents Clinton and Obama, the first President Bush’s Commissioner of Immigration, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, and several foreign governments, on immigration and refugee policies.

In the media


Latest Trump asylum change is illegal

Latest Trump asylum change is illegal

Attorney General William Barr announced July 15 a new Trump Administration plan, effective the next day, barring Central American immigrants from seeking asylum in the United States unless they seek it first in other Central American countries, a move that a Washington University in St. Louis immigration expert says “violates the clear language of the law.”
This national emergency is ‘fictitious’

This national emergency is ‘fictitious’

Stephen Legomsky, an immigration law expert at Washington University in St. Louis, comments on the Feb. 15 announcement of a state of emergency by President Donald Trump. “This much is crystal clear,” he said. “There is no national security emergency at the southern border.”
Trump lumps all immigrants together at America’s risk

Trump lumps all immigrants together at America’s risk

The absurdity of condemning an entire group because of the actions of a single member seems self-evident. If a left-handed immigrant commits a crime, no one would propose banning all left-handed immigrants. The real question is whether there is a causal link between the commission of the crime and either the substantive criteria or the processes of the particular program. No such link exists.
Trump’s DACA decision regrettable

Trump’s DACA decision regrettable

The Trump administration on Sept. 4 announced plans to end DACA, which protects nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation. The president’s decision is not only regrettable, it was entirely unnecessary, says Stephen Legomsky, the John S. Lehmann University Professor Emeritus and renowned expert on immigration law.

WashU Expert: Quick decision on immigration reform still possible

This week, a federal appeals court panel decided against allowing President Barack Obama’s controversial immigration plan to go into effect immediately, pending a review of the merits of the plan in July. While the court’s decision is a temporary setback, it’s still possible that the government could win the overall appeal, said Washington University in St. Louis immigration expert Stephen H. Legomsky.

Wash U Expert: Obama within rights to proceed on immigration reform

With Republicans gaining control of Congress after the midterm elections, Speaker of the House John Boehner insists that President Barack Obama could get “burned” if he uses executive action to move forward on immigration reform during the remainder of his presidency. Obama is well within his rights to proceed with the temporary measures he is considering, says an immigration law expert at Washington University in St. Louis.

Recent immigration agency chief counsel criticizes House leadership for stalling immigration reform

“The House leadership’s procedural excuses for blocking a vote on critical immigration reform make little sense,” says Stephen Legomsky, professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis and the recent Chief Counsel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security. In that position he worked intensively with White House and DHS officials and played a major role on comprehensive immigration reform. “It’s now been 7 months since the Senate passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill. Speaker Boehner should allow the people’s elected representatives in the House to consider it without further delay,” Legomsky argues.

Illegal immigration — mass violations can reveal flaws in the law

Anyone who cares about the rule of law has to acknowledge that illegal immigration has serious social costs that cannot be casually dismissed, says immigration law expert Stephen Legomsky, JD, DPhil, the John S. Lehmann University Professor at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. “When millions of individuals violate any law — whether it’s immigration, taxes or exceeding the posted speed limit — the rule of law takes a hit. But sometimes, mass violations reveal flaws in the law itself. At any rate, the rule of law also means that the penalties should not be disproportionate to the wrongdoing.”

Repairing the U.S. asylum system

LegomskyA recent academic study confirmed empirically what many immigration experts had already suspected: The chance of winning an asylum case often hinges as much on the luck of the draw as on the merits of the case. Some adjudicators grant asylum liberally while others grant it only rarely, and the disparities are dramatic. The Stanford Law Review asked Stephen Legomsky, J.D., D.Phil., leading immigration and asylum law expert and John S. Lehmann University Professor at Washington University in St. Louis, to write an article analyzing the policy implications of this study. Legomsky offers a controversial conclusion: “There are times when we simply have to learn to live with unequal justice because the alternatives are worse.”

‘Reduce illegal immigration by reuniting nuclear families of legal immigrants,’ expert says

Immigration law expert Stephen H. Legomsky says that an easy way to put a serious dent in illegal immigration is to exempt the spouses and young children of legal immigrants from numerical ceilings, just as we now exempt the spouses and children of U.S. citizens. Legomsky is the author of America’s leading law school textbook on immigration law and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. He has advised both Republican and Democratic administrations and several foreign governments on immigration, refugee and citizenship issues. More…

Immigration expert receives professorship in School of Law

Stephen H. Legomsky, J.D., D.Phil., has been named the John S. Lehmann University Professor. The new professorship was created through a charitable trust established by the late John Lehmann, a distinguished alumnus, lawyer and University trustee for more than 20 years.

Leading law expert says reform of legal immigration criteria needed before illegal border crossing can be curbed

Joe Angeles/WUSTL Photo”Beefing up enforcement will never put a serious dent in illegal immigration unless it goes hand in hand with major reforms of our legal immigration criteria,” says Stephen Legomsky, an internationally renowned immigration law expert at Washington University in St. Louis. He gets frustrated when he hears people suggest that undocumented immigrants are “jumping the queue,” or that undocumented immigrants “should just wait their turns like everyone else.” More…

Legomsky receives Fulbright Senior Specialists grant to Suriname

Stephen H. Legomsky, J.D., D.Phil, the Charles F. Nagel Professor of International and Comparative Law, has received a Fulbright Senior Specialist grant for a two-week human rights project in Suriname. The grant and project were at the initiative of the U.S. State Department.Legomsky will be in Suriname from October 22 through November 4, 2003. While there, he will give a series of lectures to students at the Anton de Kom University in Paramaribo, faculty members, government officials, judges, and NGO representatives, on the subject of the United Nations human rights protection system. The U.S. Embassy will also schedule meetings with the U.S. ambassador to Suriname, Surinamese government officials and judges, NGO representatives, and the national media.