Who truly controls immigration law in the United States? Though common sense might suggest the U.S. Congress, legal scholars Adam B. Cox and Cristina M. Rodríguez argue that the president is in fact the immigration policymaker-in-chief.
In this interview, we speak with co-author Rodríguez about their new book The President and Immigration Law
(Oxford University Press, 2020), which shifts our attention away from court-based immigration regulation and toward the power dynamic between Congress and presidential administrations. The book details the historical construction of the “shadow immigration system” that has enabled the executive branch to fundamentally shape immigration policy through its discretionary enforcement of the law. Rodríguez walks us through the three constitutive elements of this system: a deportation legal regime, state capacity and bureaucracy, and a boom of unauthorized immigration in the latter half of the twentieth century. This interview also delves into the role of local and state police, different visions of immigration enforcement between the Obama and Trump administrations, and the potential for reform of the current immigration system. With the continued push and pull forces of global migration spurred by humanitarian crises and economic incentives, this work sheds new light on who holds the reins of power in this ongoing policy debate.
Jaime Sánchez, Jr. is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of History at Princeton University and a scholar of U.S. politics and Latino studies. He is currently writing an institutional history of the Democratic National Committee and partisan coalition politics in the twentieth century. You can follow him on Twitter @Jaime_SanchezJr