Immigration and the Bully Pulpit

Jennifer M. Chacón
Date of Publication: 
May, 2017
Source Organization: 

This essay looks at how the Trump administration's approach to immigration, while powered by a "rhetoric of unconstrained severity," has "deep roots" in the policies of the previous two administrations and represents a "doubling-down on some of the least productive approaches to enforcement."  The first part of the essay describes the enforcement landscape of the Obama administration and how that landscape changed over time. Obama policies were on "autopilot" from the Bush administration and seemed to be driven by an expectation that strict enforcement would win over legalization skeptics in Congress and open the door to comprehensive immigration reform. Obama's eventual effort to be more selective in enforcement priorities had unintended consequences. "The Administration's attempt to sort immigrants into high and low priority groups was certainly reassuring to some, but it was also inherently troubled, relying as it did upon problematically constructed notions of criminality." Obama also considered recent arrivals a priority for removal, veting out harsh treatment for Central American asylum seekers between 2013 and 2016. The rest of the article looks at the unfolding policies of the Trump administration, which seem "intentionally designed to stoke the insecurity of immigrant communities." Announcing his intention to deport two to three million noncitizens in his first year in office, Trump greatly expanded the pool of potential deportees beyond the 820,000 noncitizens with criminal convictions -- now including people who have been arrested but not convicted. His plan to expand an administrative removal measure known as expedited removal to a broad segment of the unauthorized population is now under legal challenge. (American Immigrant Policy Portal)

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Chacon, J. M. (2017). Immigration and the Bully Pulpit. Harvard Law Review Forum, 130(7), 243–268.