Professor Bill Ong Hing ’74
Standing Up for Reason
“Because USF’s mission is very much in line with fairness and justice and progressive social change, it allows you to be comfortable thinking through matters from that perspective.”
A pursuit of social justice is woven through all that Professor Bill Ong Hing ’74 does, whether that’s teaching, litigation, scholarship, or community work.
“It all fits into the Jesuit mission of the law school,” says Bill, an expert in immigration policy. “My work is about fairness and dignity that I think is absent from the way our immigration laws operate and are enforced. The school’s values are very consistent with mine.”
Bill already had already distinguished himself at other law schools when he opted to return to his alma mater to teach. That decision was prompted in large part because of the school’s commitment to community work and social justice. He was also won over by USF’s diversity, both racial and class-wise.
“The diversity of the school is really impressive, both in terms of students and faculty. That really stood out to me because I think the school needs to reflect society, the demographics of society. There’s the opportunity that students can go back and work in communities that they’re from and that increases the chances of more equitable representation of people who need legal services.”
“The diversity of the school is really impressive, both in terms of students and faculty,” Bill says. “That really stood out to me because I think the school needs to reflect the demographics of society. There’s the opportunity that students can go back and work in communities that they’re from and that increases the chances of more equitable representation of people who need legal services.”
He came to USF expecting to inspire students primarily through his courses, and initially hadn’t planned to start a clinic. “Then the border crisis occurred in summer 2014 and undocumented kids were arriving from Central America unaccompanied. There was such a big need that I had to help. The natural thing to do was to start representing them and to inspire the students to help out,” Bill says.
The result is the Immigration Law and Deportation Defense Clinic, which Bill directs in addition to his teaching duties. His scholarly work has focused primarily on immigration, and in recent years has formulated a critique of immigration and deportation policies. Bill also is the founder of the nonprofit Immigrant Legal Resource Center, a legal services support center for immigrant rights communities, and is active on the board of the Southeast Asian Resource Action Center.
“I love my students very much. They’re so dedicated to social justice that it really does make it a pleasure for me to teach the students here. They want to learn. They want to be pushed. They want to learn how to be effective. They teach me every day.”
In advocating for any type of change, Bill understands the why is just as important as the change itself. He challenges himself and his students to reflect on the reasons for their thinking.
“One of the nice things about USF is that because the school’s mission is very much in line with fairness and justice and progressive social change, it allows you to be comfortable thinking through matters from that perspective,” Bill says. “I constantly challenge my students and myself to make sure that we are respectful of other people’s views on immigration and to come up with well-reasoned, well-documented responses to those. We need insightful reasoning that is based on research, based on logic, and not just our initial reaction of empathy. That may be a good starting point, but for people to listen to us, we need solid reasoning and arguments. The environment at USF is very conducive to allowing us to explore what we’re thinking and forcing ourselves to be better.”