Friday, September 6, 2013

Rick Su Talks Back: Immigration as Urban Policy


This week, ImmigrationProf has posted commentary by Professor Steve Bender and me on Professor Rick Su's article entitled Immigration as Urban Policy.   Here is a response from Professor Su.  See Download Rick Su Response.  It begins as follows:

"Reading Dean Kevin Johnson’s response to my article, Immigration as Urban Policy, I was immediately struck by two things. The first is how much we actually agree as a matter of principle. The second is how deeply resistant he seems to the idea of local involvement, no matter how it is structured or to what ends it is directed. This is a shame. The fact is there are many ways in which local involvement can be structured to bring about the kind of sensible reforms that Dean Johnson desires. Yet by treating the question of local involvement purely as a matter of “federal power” versus “local rights,” and by framing it entirely around his concerns about immigration enforcement, Dean Johnson overlooks these myriad possibilities.

Indeed, if there is one misgiving that I have about Dean Johnson’s response, it is that he seems at times to be addressing an entirely different argument than the one that I actually present. There is a lot that Immigration as Urban Policy does do: it suggests a new perspective for thinking about immigration, it presents cogent reasons for doing so, and it offers concrete steps towards this end. But given the scattershot nature of Dean Johnson’s objections, it may be just as important to point out what my article does not do. It does not claim that immigration is only about urban policy. It does not assert that there is inherent local authority to regulate immigration, nor does it suggest granting local autonomy over its enforcement. Moreover, it does not ignore the potential problems that might arise with local immigration policymaking; indeed, I am as interested in an urban policy reorientation of immigration law as I am in reforming the way that local policies regarding immigration are made.

As the following shows, many of Dean Johnson’s concerns with Immigration as Urban Policy can be addressed simply by clarifying my arguments and reiterating my proposal. The more important question in my mind, however, is why Dean Johnson’s critique is so broadly drawn that it seems at times to be only tangentially related to the substance of my article. I do not believe this to be a simple oversight. Rather, I suspect that Dean Johnson’s response to my article is both motivated by an entirely different debate about local involvement: the legal battle over state and local laws mandating immigration enforcement. It is towards this debate that I think Dean Johnson is most interested in directing his arguments. Moreover, I believe it leads him to adopt a set of assumptions about the nature of local policymaking and the structure of local power—both of which stand in the way of serious consideration of the many ways in which local involvement can bring about the kind of sensible reforms that Dean Johnson desires. Thus, after addressing the specifics of Dean Johnson’s critique in Part I of this response, I turn in Part II to the task of identifying some of these assumptions and addressing them directly."


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