J.C. SalyerOct 8, 2021
Court of Injustice
Law Without Recognition in U.S. Immigration
Stanford University Press 2020
J.C. Salyer’s Court of Injustice: Law Without Recognition in U.S. Immigration (Stanford UP, 2020) is an important look at the histories and processes of immigration law in the US. The book engages with US immigration policy by both tracing the history of US immigration law in the US and considering contemporary practices. Not just a history of law or assessment of policy, Court of Injustice is ethnographically grounded in New York City immigration courts, as well as the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP). Salyer’s work shifts in scope—from past to present, from New York City to the whole of the U.S, from theoretical considerations of nation-state sovereignty to individual experiences of immigration law—in a way that masterfully paints a compelling portrait of the US immigration courts. By considering context alongside contemporary practice, Court of Injustice provides a way to think through the threads of migration, geography, and xenophobia alongside arguing for concrete ways the under-resourced US immigration courts could change to provide more just outcomes.
Throughout the book, Salyer considers not just the experiences of immigrants with immigration law, but also how immigration lawyers come to understand immigration courts. Additionally, Court of Injustice links past to present, and provides a needed context that clearly demonstrates that contemporary shifts in US immigration law—including those under the Trump administration—are not something new, but part of a long history that includes the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), and other policies that sought to limit migration to the US and “thicken” the US border. Salyer’s socioeconomic history of immigration courts in the U.S. would be of great interest to a wide readership, from those studying migration academically to non-academic members of the public seeking a more in-depth understanding of U.S. immigration policy.
Rine Vieth is a PhD candidate in Anthropology at McGill University, where they research the how UK asylum tribunals consider claims of belief.