Immigration Policy Seminar

Course Description

“Immigration law is a constitutional oddity.” 1 In the area of substantive policy choices, the federal government’s power over immigration is virtually absolute. If Congress is ever to enact balanced and effective immigration laws, it is essential that law-making in this area be influenced by wise and sound policy choices. Presently all observers agree that the immigration system has been broken for a long time and badly in need of repair. Despite several attempts since 2004, Congress has consistently failed to pass any substantive reform measures other than a few enactments designed to enhance border control and enforcement ostensibly in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11th. Such initiatives, however, are arguably mere placeboes in the context of immigration control and virtually tantamount to a “tilting at windmills” exercise. The rhetoric of fear-mongering and immigration politics always seems to infect the debates thus adversely affecting the policy and law-making processes. This course explores the various issues and trends in immigration policy-making first looking to the past to provide a historical backdrop in order to gain insight into potential directions that future reform efforts might take. Although Congress has enacted recently enforcement-oriented measures, it never quite manages to accomplish the ostensibly herculean task of passing bi-partisan comprehensive immigration reform, leaving it to the states to take up the slack. Not surprisingly, this kind of state activity in the area of federal immigration laws has garnered a lot of court activity, thus raising the specter of a constitutional challenge which is likely to reach the Supreme Court in the not-so-far future.

This is a seminar course. Students will select their individual paper topics early in the semester in consultation with the instructor and thereafter commence the research and draft writing tasks. Also, the various topics covered in class will be the subject to a series of comment papers throughout the semester. Class participation is always encouraged and anticipated. Near the end of the semester, students will make their oral presentations relating to their selected paper topics. Collegial input and critique is also expected. Grades received on the comment papers together with the seminar paper will comprise the final grade in the course.

1Legomsky, Stephen H., Immigration Law and the Principle of Plenary Congressional, 1984 Supreme Ct. Rev. 255, 255

Current and Previous Instructors

Key to Codes in Course Descriptions

P: Prerequisite
C: Prerequisite or Concurrent Requirement
R: Recommended Prior or Concurrent Course