Monday, August 27, 2018
Felice Batlan, Deja Vu and the Gendered Origins of the Practice of Immigration Law: The Immigrants’ Protective League, 1907-1940, Law & History Rev. (2018)
This essay from Felice Batlan was written after she spent days protesting at Chicago's O'Hare airport in response to Trump's "Muslim Ban." The article is posted on Law and History Review's multi-media digital platform which provides hyperlinks to both primary and secondary sources making it freely accessible and ideal for classroom use.
Donald Trump’s administration has provoked crisis after crisis regarding the United States’ immigration policy, laws, and their enforcement. This has drastically affected millions of immigrants in the U.S. and those hoping to immigrate. Stemming from this, immigration lawyers and immigrant advocacy organizations are challenging such policies and providing an extraordinary amount of direct pro bono legal services to immigrants in need. Yet the history of the practice of immigration law has been largely understudied. This article addresses this history by closely examining Chicago’s Immigrants’ Protective League between 1910 and 1940. The League provided free counsel to tens of thousands of poor immigrants facing a multitude of immigration-related legal issues during a time when Congress passed increasingly strict immigration laws often spawned by xenophobia and racism. The League, always headed by women social workers, created a robust model of immigration advocacy at a time when only a handful of women were professionally trained lawyers. A close and thick reading of the League’s archival documents, manifests how the events of Trump’s immigration policies have a long and painful history. U.S. immigration law and its enforcement have consistently been cruel, inhumane, arbitrary, and capricious. Told from the ground up and focusing upon the day-to-day problems that immigrants brought to the League, one dramatically sees how immigration laws and practices were like quicksand, thwarting the legitimate expectations of migrants, and, at times, leaving people in an endless legal limbo. The League, in response, participated in creating what would become the practice of immigration law, engaging, and quickly responding to changing laws, rules, policies, and the needs of migrants.