Illegal Immigration: The Ongoing Debate

In 2013 I published a paper in an international peer-reviewed journal, “Dealing with Uninvited and Unwelcomed Guests: a Survey of Current State Legislative Efforts to Control Illegal Immigration Within Their Borders” (Int. J. Public Law and Policy, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2013). At the time, the U.S. Supreme Court had not yet weighed in on the Constitutionality of state efforts to enforce federal immigration law in answer to the Obama Administration’s refusal to enforce the law. (No president from Reagan through Obama has made any significant effort to enforce the law, which explains why after President Reagan provided a general amnesty to most illegal aliens, effectively reducing the number of illegal immigrants to near zero during his time in office, we find ourselves with more than 12 million illegal aliens today.)

When the Obama administration challenged the Constitutionality of Arizona’s efforts to enforce federal immigration law within its borders, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled most (but not all) such efforts to be Unconstitutional, holding that only the federal government (read: Congress, the legislative branch) can set immigration law and only the federal government (read: the President, the executive branch) can enforce federal law.

Leaving aside for the moment the  legality of an executive order that prevents enforcement of current immigration law for 5 million illegal immigrants, permitting them to stay and work in the U.S.  in direct violation of current immigration law, it is a good idea for the general public to have access to accurate information as to the legal issues involved so that they may make make an informed decision on both the legal and social issues involved for themselves rather than formulating an opinion based on the conflicting views expressed by legal experts in two-minute segments on the evening news or cable news channels.

The issue is far from settled, but one thing is clear: if we do not learn the lessons taught by the unintended consequences of failed previous attempts at immigration reform, we are doomed to repeat them. If we have learned nothing from Reagan’s blanket amnesty which at least had the benefit of having been achieved through legal, Constitutional channels (e.g., an act of Congress signed by the President (rather than by an executive order or questionable validity issued by a petulant President upset at having his ideology soundly rejected in the 2014 midterm elections) in the 1980′s we will once again most likely triple the current numbers of illegal aliens in the next 30 years if another blanket amnesty is given (and amnesty is what is at issue here, by whatever name and means it is effectuated).

Reasonable people may differ on this as in most any controversial social or political issue.  I welcome a reasonable debate based on the facts and an ensuing immigration reform that is implemented in adherence to the required Constitutional process. Whatever else may be open to rational debate, the Constitutional process for passing laws at the federal level is well settled and beyond dispute: a bill is approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and is then signed into law (or vetoed) by the President. There is also no dispute as to whosae prerogative it is to set immigration and naturalization law in the U.S. as that power is exclusively given to Congress in Article I Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.

For my part, I’ve published two scholarly articles on the issue of illegal immigration in peer-reviewed law journals the past five years that are relevant to the current debate. In the future, when my research agenda permits it, I intend to write a general reference guide to immigration law. For now, you can find the text of the entire article referenced above at the publisher’s site by clicking on this link and then on the PDF or HTML versions of the article from the Journal’s main page. (You may also cut and paste the following URL to your browser:
A second earlier article on the subject,  “Illegal Immigration: Economic, Social and Ethical Implications” Victor D. Lopez, North East Journal of Legal Studies, 22 (Fall 2009), 45- …, 2009, is only available in print and not online at this time. I will obtain permission from the NEJLS to reprint it here and/or on my primary blog at in the near future.


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Filed under Law and Legislation, Politics

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