This paper reviews and critically evaluates the principle of family unity, a hallmark of US immigration policy over the past 50 years and the most important mechanism for immigration to the United States. Family unity is critical for promoting immigrant integration, social and economic well-being, and intergenerational mobility. However, several US policies and practices contribute to prolonged periods of family separation by restricting travel and effectively locking in a large number of people either inside or outside of the United States. Furthermore, increasingly aggressive enforcement practices undermine family unity for a large number of undocumented and mixed-status families.
This paper outlines the complexities — and unlikelihood — of keeping families together when facing, or in the aftermath of deportation. After discussing the context that prevents reunification among immigrant families more generally, I outline several of the particular ways that families are divided when a member is deported. Drawing on case studies from longitudinal ethnographic research in Mexico and the United States, I describe: 1) the difficulties in successfully canceling deportation orders, 2) the particular limitations to family reunification for US citizen children when a parent is deported, and 3) the legal barriers to authorized return to the United States after deportation. I argue that without comprehensive immigration reform and concrete possibilities for relief, mixed-status and transnational families will continue to be divided. Existing laws do not adequately address family life and the diverse needs of individuals as members of families, creating a humanitarian crisis both within and beyond the borders of the United States. The paper concludes with recommendations for immigration policy reform and suggestions for restructuring administrative processes that directly impact those who have been deported and their family members.
US immigration removal procedures need reform, and systematic flaws in the removal adjudication system must be addressed. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses every tool in its arsenal to expeditiously remove people from the United States, including by bypassing judicial hearings. In “ministerial” or expedited forms of removal, there is no courtroom, no administrative judge, and rarely any opportunity for legal counsel to participate or for federal judicial review. In these settings, the rule of law is entirely within the hands of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers who serve as both prosecutor and judge. This paper argues that the rule of law must be restored to the US removal adjudication system, and it proposes ways in which this can be accomplished. Specific recommendations include the necessity of clear enforcement priorities, sufficient resources to allow for fair adjudication, a statute of limitations for immigration violations, and the right to counsel.
This paper identifies potential common ground in the US immigration debate, including the national interests that underlie US immigration and refugee policies, and broad public support for a legal and orderly immigration system that serves compelling national interests. It focuses on the cornerstone of immigration reform, the legal immigration system, and addresses the widespread belief that broad reform will incentivize illegal migration and ultimately lead to another large undocumented population.
This paper examines the importance of applying a subject-centered approach to understanding immigration noncompliance and to developing effective, ethical, and equitable immigration policies. In general, a subject-centered approach focuses on the beliefs, values, and perceptions of individuals whose behavior the law seeks to regulate. This approach has been widely used in non-immigration law contexts to produce a more nuanced understanding of legal noncompliance. By contrast, the subject-centered approach has been an overlooked tool in the study of immigration noncompliance. This paper argues that a subject-centered understanding of why people obey or disobey the law can advance public knowledge and inform immigration policy in important ways. Specifically, the paper considers how the use of this approach might help us: (1) recognize the basic humanity and moral agency of unauthorized immigrants, (2) appreciate not only direct costs of immigration enforcement policies, but also their indirect and long-term costs, and (3) develop new and innovative strategies to achieving policy goals.
This paper analyzes the restrictionist logic that informs the Trump administration’s handling of immigration policy, and explores some of the underlying cultural, philosophical, and political conditions that inspired support for Trump. It contends that the Clash of Civilizations (CoC) paradigm is a useful lens to help understand the positions that President Trump has taken with respect to international affairs broadly, and specifically in his approach to immigration policy. The paper will focus primarily on Trump’s approach to refugee resettlement during his campaign and the early days of his administration. While there are unique aspects of the contemporary reaction against refugee resettlement, it is rooted in a much longer history that extends back to the World War II period. The paper explores this historical backdrop, and helps to clarify the reception of refugees after the fall of the Soviet Union. It also helps to explain how and why a CoC paradigm has become ascendant in the Trump administration. The CoC paradigm is at its core pre-political, and the policy prescriptions that follow from it are more effect than cause. The paper concludes with a series of recommendations for restoring support to the US refugee resettlement program, bolstering foreign aid and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (which are essential to the program’s success), and engaging the cultural underpinnings of opposition to this program.
President Trump issued executive orders after taking office in January 2017 that could lead to the removal of many of the 11 million unauthorized foreigners, including one million who work in US agriculture. Agriculture in the western United States especially has long relied on newcomers to fill seasonal farm jobs. The slowdown in Mexico-US migration since 2008-09 means that there are fewer flexible newcomers to supplement the current workforce. Farm employers are responding with worker bonuses, productivity-increasing tools, mechanization, and guest workers. Several factors suggest that the United States may be poised to embark on another large-scale guest worker program for agriculture. If it does, farmers should begin to pay payroll taxes on the wages of guest workers. This will foster mechanization and development in the workers’ communities of origin if payroll taxes are divided equally between departing workers and commodity-specific boards to increase the competitiveness of production in the United States. The economic incentives provided by payroll taxes could help to usher in a new and better era of farm labor.
This essay examines citizenship policy under the Trump presidency.
This paper surveys the history of nativism in the United States from the late nineteenth century to the present. It compares the current surge in nativism with earlier periods, particularly the decades leading up to the 1920s, when nativism directed against southern and eastern European, Asian, and Mexican migrants led to discriminatory national origin quotas and other legislative restrictions on immigration.
US immigration policy has serious limitations, particularly when viewed from an economic perspective. Some shortcomings arise from faulty initial design, others from the inability of the system to adapt to changing circumstances. In either case, a reluctance to confront politically difficult decisions is often a contributing factor to the failure to craft laws that can stand the test of time. This paper argues that, as a result, some key aspects of US immigration policy are incoherent and mutually contradictory — new policies are often inconsistent with past policies and undermine their goals. Inconsistency makes policies less effective because participants in the immigration system realize that lawmakers face powerful incentives to revise policies at a later date. It specifically analyzes US policies regarding unauthorized immigration, temporary visas, and humanitarian migrants as examples of incoherence and inconsistency. Lastly, this paper explores key features of an integrated, coherent immigration policy from an economic perspective and how policymakers could better attempt to achieve policy consistency across laws and over time.