The President and Immigration Law Series: Reflections on the Future of American Immigration Policy

Enforcement drives American immigration policymaking today. The wonderful essays in this series responding to our book all reflect this reality, and taken together they underscore two crucial points.

First, they highlight the great human cost of the regime. Josiah Heyman’s contribution in particular reminds us of what is so often elided in policy debates – that the border is not an abstraction, but rather a populated American environment, a physical space filled with complex lives. He captures how high-level acts – like declarations of emergency – effectively erase what is otherwise a state of normalcy in the borderlands, compounding the racist and reductionist ways policymakers and many Americans conceive of the need for immigration policing at the nation’s supposed outer edges. His account of the borderlands brings into the most acute relief how abstract or theoretical debates over the polity’s right to construct itself by deciding whom to let in cannot be divorced from the everyday experience of immigration policing – and the vibrant, migratory lives it disrupts.

Second, the essays offer a range of options for transforming this system – either by taming the machinery of enforcement or repositioning it around an entirely new paradigm of regulation. These suggestions for the path forward fit into three broad categories of change we discuss in the book, and we offer here some final reflections along those lines. We begin with the reform tools that will be most readily available, if and when the government changes hands: reforms to the bureaucracy headed by the executive and rescission and reformulation of past administrative policies. We next discuss the role we can expect courts to play and then consider how Congress and the executive working together might amend existing legal authorities to tame the enforcement logic.

By Cristina Rodríguez and Adam Cox

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