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David Thronson - Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI, US

David Thronson David Thronson

Associate Dean for Experiential Education and Professor of Law | Michigan State University


Expert in immigration law






HIRC Anniversary Plenary Panel: Reflections on 30 years of social justice lawyering



David Thronson is Associate Dean for Experiential Education and Professor of Law at the Michigan State University College of Law, where he is co-founder of the Immigration Law Clinic and also served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. His research and writing seeks to develop frameworks and critical perspectives for analyzing the intersection of family and immigration, with a particular focus on children.

Thronson graduated from the University of Kansas with degrees in mathematics and education, then taught in Nepal as a Peace Corps volunteer. He completed a master's degree at Teachers College, Columbia University and served several years as a teacher and assistant principal in the New York City Public Schools.

In 1994, Thronson earned his J.D. degree from Harvard Law School where he served as Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Human Rights Journal. After clerking for the Honorable A. Wallace Tashima in California, Thronson returned to New York City as a Skadden Fellow at The Door's Legal Services Center, providing direct legal services to at-risk young people primarily in the areas of immigration, housing, public benefits and family law. He then served as the Gibbons Fellow in Public Interest and Constitutional Law at the law firm of Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger and Vecchione where he litigated cases involving a wide range of issues including the scope of federal habeas jurisdiction to review immigration matters, the application of the Convention Against Torture, the constitutional adequacy of educational opportunities provided to urban children in New Jersey, and discrimination in New Jersey State Police hiring practices.

From 1999 to 2002, Thronson taught in the Lawyering Program of New York University School of Law and served as an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University School of Law and Hofstra University School of Law where he taught immigration law, public international law and international human rights. Thronson subsequently served as Professor and Associate Dean for Clinical Studies at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. He was named UNLV Professor of the Year in 2003.

Thronson has served on numerous boards of directors, including those of the National Youth Leadership Council and International Social Service.

Industry Expertise (6)

Research Writing and Editing Education/Learning International Affairs Public Policy Program Development

Areas of Expertise (5)

International Law Education Policy Human Rights Public Interest and Constitutional Law Child Welfare

Accomplishments (1)

Moreheuser Humanitarian Award (professional)


Awarded by Education Law Center

Education (3)

Harvard Law School: J.D. 1994

Columbia University: M.A., Mathematics Education 1990

University of Kansas: B.G.S., Mathematics and Education 1985

News (5)

Legal challenges Trump's travel ban could see in court

The State News  


International students from any of the seven countries affected by President Donald Trump’s executive order are advised to not leave the country until the situation changes, MSU College of Law professor and Immigration Law Clinic member David Thronson said. Since the order is only a little more than a week old, Thronson said its ultimate ramifications are not yet clear...

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MSU experts can discuss election issues

MSU Today  


David Thronson, professor in the College of Law’s Immigration Law Clinic, can discuss candidates’ proposed immigration policies, as well as immigration reform efforts...

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From STEM to gun control, MSU experts can discuss state of the union

MSU Today  


David Thronson, professor of law, is an expert on constitutional and immigration law. Obama is likely to address immigration, especially the Syrian refugee crisis...

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Special immigrant juvenile status can provide relief for border children

Houston Chronicle  


"(Special immigrant juvenile status) is popular because when we work with children in any other situation in this country we generally talk about what's in the best interest of the kids, that's what we use as our yard stick," said David Thronson, a law professor at Michigan State University who specializes in the issue. "But this is the only place in immigration law where the best interest of the child is mentioned."...

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Man released after nine months

Queens Chronicle  


According to David Thronson, an immigration law professor at Michigan State, the argument that a parent’s deportation will harm his or her children is one of the most frequently used, and repeatedly dismissed, arguments in deportation hearings.

In an article he wrote for the Nevada Law Journal, Thronson pointed to multiple immigration cases in the United States circuit courts where, “as a starting point, courts are quick to assert that ‘[c]itizen children have, of course, an absolute right to remain in the United States’”...

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Journal Articles (5)

Family courts and immigration status Juvenile & Family Court Journal


Immigration issues can complicate the already difficult decisions that face family courts, and immigration law is a real and substantial element in the lives of many persons properly before family courts for protection and resolution of family issues. Yet there are not established parameters for evaluating the appropriateness and scope of the consideration of immigration issues in family court. This article explores principles and approaches regarding immigration issues in family courts, developing rationales for engaging or not in immigration issues, and providing a foundation for thoughtful consideration of the ways in which immigration law interacts with core family law functions.

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Custody and contradictions: Exploring immigration law as federal family law in the context of child custody Hastings Law Journal


This article examines possible use of immigration issues in child custody determinations from a traditional family law perspective. It then turns to immigration law to evaluate the actual import of a child custody determinations in immigration law. Building on the family law and immigration law analyses, the article explores the notion of immigration law as family law and family law as immigration law. Looking at immigration law as family law provides a critical perspective to review its capricious treatment of children and the erratic relevance of child custody. Likewise, critiquing the manner in which family law can function as immigration law provides fresh insights regarding the appropriate and limited parameters for the consideration of immigration related issues in child custody matters.

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Creating crisis: Immigration raids and the destabilization of immigrant families Wake Forest Law Review


Given the deep integration of immigrants into the fabric of the United States through families, the increasing use of raids in homes and workplaces as an immigration law enforcement strategy has profound and predictable impacts on children. While immigration raids formally are targeted at adults, they have ripple effects for children as an unmistakable message of loss and fear is communicated to immigrant families. This article reviews recent immigration raids and the traumatic impact they imposed on children. It then explores assumptions and misconceptions about the interaction of immigration law with child custody issues that contribute to the family chaos that often accompanies immigration raids, and argues that exploiting the fear of family separation should not be the lynchpin of immigration enforcement. The costs to children and families associated with immigration raids mandates rethinking of existing policies relating both to enforcement and to underlying immigration laws.

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Choiceless choices: Deportation and the parent-child relationship Nevada Law Review


Although family relationships play a central role in immigration law, immigration law ultimately makes judgments about individuals. Given that the vast majority of children live in the context of family, there are tensions between children's and parent's rights in situations where immigration law reaches different conclusions about the legal rights of parents and children to remain in the United States. These tensions are exacerbated by immigration law's conceptualization of adult parents as active rights holders and children as passive objects subject to their control. The article places the immigration framework in broader context of the parent-child relationship and explains ways in which family law does not trump, but rather transcends immigration law. One implication of this is that family courts, not immigration courts, are the ultimate decision makers in the resolution of family differences regarding separation prompted by the operation of immigration laws.

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Of borders and best interests: Examining the experiences of undocumented immigrants in US family courts Texas Hispanic Journal of Law & Policy


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