February 3, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 20°F


Guest commentary: Racial dimensions negatively affect immigration policy

Annoyed over unsupported claims about the perceived lethality, or the national devolution, that immigrants from Latin America will bring upon the nation, along with the outlandish policies offered as solutions, I, along with Syracuse University Professor Amardo Rodriguez, decided to separate fact from fiction in our book, “When Race and Policy Collide: Contemporary Immigration Debates,” published Feb. 14. Our chief goal in this book is to identify and analyze how judicial and political deliberations about immigration reform continue to produce state and local policies that maliciously target Latinos, regardless of their legal status.

Culminating from two years of legal and policy research and writing, we chose to address some of the most controversial issues and debates pertaining to immigration reform. In doing so, our book moves beyond the abstract conversations about “securing the border” and instead focuses on state and local policy specifics, as policy specifics are what inform the headlines and subsequently introduce quarrels to the greater public.

Rarely do conversations about immigration reform actually articulate the wide reach of these laws. For instance, a new wave of state-guided legislation requiring landlords to verify the legal status of prospective tenants before they issue a lease is considered by some lawmakers as a step in the right direction toward fixing a “broken” immigration system that Congress has yet to address. Consequently, these policies have resulted in nothing short of racial profiling through questionable constitutional overstep. Stemming from recent state and federal changes in the legal landscape, each chapter addresses timely and timeless issues like bilingual education, official language laws, housing ordinances, border security and voting rights.

One of our overriding goals was not only to infuse a dialogue over the peculiar racial dimensions intertwined in these policies and debates, but to ensure that our book remained accessible to a wide audience interested in race and public policy, as the issues we discuss impact more than just those within the Ivory Tower. Because we grapple with many state and Supreme Court decisions in the book and discuss how these cases impact current immigration policy and enforcement, we sought to condense many lengthy court decisions into thematic case studies, providing a wider context for readers.

More specifically, we sought to expose how the rising number of political debates centering on increasing populations of immigrants from Latin America and the so-called cultural devolution it brings are nothing more than an illusion. It is no secret that threats of cultural devolution at the hands of immigrants, whether Irish, German or Mexican, are nothing new within the American experience. Yet at every turn, history has shown how these claims have always been absent of fact. The perceived cultural and political lethality linked with Latin American immigrants, particularly those from Mexico, continues to lead to legal and political dispute.

As the nation undergoes debates on how best to fix a “broken” immigration system, the number of introduced “immigration reform” policies continues to expand. The chief point of difference between our book and other books about immigration reform is predicated upon our understanding that immigration reform policy belies several issues like fencing the southern border, as more and more local governments are passing their own reform measures, constantly redefining and challenging what some academics and others consider to be immigration reform.

Some assert that the United States has evolved into a post-racial society. We reject this claim by illustrating the opposite in reference to the state of political and legal deliberation on immigration. Overall, we hope our book sparks much debate and continual contemplation over the broken state of American immigration reform.