U.S. Immigration Policy in an Age of Rights

U.S. Immigration Policy in an Age of Rights

U.S. Immigration Policy in an Age of Rights

U.S. Immigration Policy in an Age of Rights

Synopsis

Civil rights rhetoric has been central to the debate over U.S. immigration policy since the 1960s. DeLaet shows how this rhetoric helps to explain the liberalization of U.S. immigration policy in recent decades and contributes to rising numbers of both legal and illegal immigrants.

Excerpt

U.S. immigration policy is being made in an age of rights. Civil rights have been a central part of the discourse shaping the debate over U.S. immigration policy since at least the 1960s. Prior to this time, widespread racism made a restrictive national immigration policy politically viable. However, since the 1960s, the idea that fairness and non-discrimination should fundamentally shape U.S. immigration policy has predominated in the immigration policy debate in this country. As a result, the U.S. government has faced increased difficulty in passing effective restrictions on either illegal or legal immigration.

To say that U.S. immigration policy is being made in an age of rights is not to say that U.S. immigration policy is completely fair, just, or conducive to the protection of immigrant rights. Indeed, immigrant advocacy groups typically criticize U.S. immigration policy for failing to adequately protect the rights of either U.S. citizens who are ethnic minorities or legal residents, illegal immigrants, and potential migrants. The claim being advanced here is not that U.S. immigration policy is perfectly just. In fact, U.S. immigration policy is often unjust, unfair, and discriminatory in its application. Nevertheless, in recent decades, civil rights discourse has been a fundamental factor in determining the policy alternatives available to the U.S. government in its efforts to regulate immigration.

The growing importance of civil rights rhetoric in the debate over U.S. immigration policy has been accompanied by, and has contributed to, rising numbers of both legal and illegal immigrants. Since the 1960s, approximately 150,000 to 200,000 illegal immigrants have entered the United States each year.

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