Analysis and Commentary on Immigration Law

United States et al. vs. Texas et al.: A Political Question for November

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Nixon, explains the significance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s equal division in the immigration case United States v. Texas, which involved a challenge to the Obama administration’s sweeping immigration policy. Dean argues that the Court is effectively punting the political question of the immigration policy to the winner of the 2016 presidential election.

Trump’s Post-Orlando Statements Reveal the True Nature of His Proposed Ban on Muslim Immigration

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf evaluates statements made by Donald Trump in response to the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando this past weekend. Dorf argues that by telling American Muslims that they are all presumed to be terrorists, Trump actually fosters resentment and radicalization in the small portion of the American Muslim community that has the potential for radicalization.

Prosecutorial Discretion: The Dog That Didn’t Bark in the Immigration Oral Argument—Yet

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the recent oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Texas, a case involving a challenge to the Obama Administration’s deferred action immigration policy. Dorf points out that underneath the procedural questions actually before the Court in that case is a crucial unasked question: What is the scope of the president’s prosecutorial discretion not to enforce laws duly enacted by Congress?

Homespun Wisdom (and Wrongheadedness) in Iowa on the Treatment of Muslims

Illinois Law dean and law professor Vikram David Amar evaluates three people’s statements regarding America’s treatment of Muslims: President Obama, an Iowa businessman, and a local Muslim cleric (an imam). Amar points out that Donald Trump’s proposal that America ban all Muslims from entering the country is vastly underinclusive (because the great majority of violent acts in this country are perpetrated by non-Muslims), and at the same time very overinclusive (because the overwhelming majority of Muslims who want to enter the United States intend no harm)—two indicators of legal and moral unfairness.

Arizona’s SB 1070 Immigration Law Is Back in Play in the Federal Courts

University of Illinois law professor and dean Vikram David Amar comments on a recent decision by a federal district court in Arizona addressing a challenge to two parts of Arizona’s SB 1070 statute, which attempts to deal with immigration stresses in that state. Amar argues that the court’s reasoning on both claims was confused and unpersuasive and that the results should have been inverted. That is, Amar suggests that the court should have upheld the equal protection challenge to the “Show Me Your Papers” provision and rejected the First Amendment challenge to the Day Laborer provisions.

Flag-Waving Gametes: Biology, Not Gestation or Parenting, Determines Whether Children Born Abroad Acquire Citizenship from U.S. Citizen Parents

Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman discusses the important questions of whether and when a child who is born outside the U.S. can acquire citizenship from a U.S. citizen parent. Grossman focuses especially on the heartbreaking case of U.S. citizen Ellie Lavi, who gave birth to twins in Israel. When Lavi sought U.S. citizenship for the twins, the State Department informed her that the twins would not be deemed U.S. citizens unless Lavi could prove that the donor sperm or egg came from a U.S. citizen. Grossman strongly criticizes the State Department’s decision to, in effect, deem the gamete donors, not Lavi, the babies’ parents for purposes of U.S. citizenship—even though no one disputes that Lavi, a U.S. citizen, gave birth to the twins. Grossman covers the ways in which children can gain U.S. citizenship by descent; describes the more onerous rules for out-of-wedlock children; considers whether treating unwed citizen fathers and unwed citizen mothers differently is discriminatory; and discusses who counts as a “mother” and thus a person able to convey citizenship. Finally, Grossman considers four interesting scenarios regarding the descent of citizenship to children; describes the consequences of non-citizenship; and urges the State Department to deal more fairly and justly with the modern realities of reproductive technology.

The Hidden “Unitary Executive” Issue in the Arizona Immigration Case

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the Supreme Court’s decision to take up a case involving the controversial Arizona immigration law—another blockbuster in a momentous Term for the Court, which will also resolve cases on the health care legislation and redistricting in Texas. Regarding the Arizona immigration case, Dorf explains the relevance, in the case, of the theory of the “unitary executive,” and notes that there seems to be a common misconception: The question in the Arizona case, he explains, is not whether Congress can preempt state immigration law—it plainly can—but whether Congress did, in fact, preempt Arizona’s immigration law. Dorf also explains the unusual way in which the Justices’ ideological leanings play out in typical federal-preemption cases, and why immigration cases involving federal preemption are atypical in this respect. In addition, he explains why a Court precedent on gun control and federalism may play a large role here.

The Fight Over Alabama’s Immigration Law Features Increasingly Estranged Allies: Conservative Populists Versus Big Business

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Michael Dorf examines the way in which an Alabama immigration law—which would place the state in the role of enforcer of federal immigration laws—illustrates a schism that may be growing between two conservative constituencies: populists and corporatists. Dorf illustrates his point about the schism by reference to the controversies over the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) and over immigration, which have split the Republican Party. He also asks if populist conservatives and business conservatives can ever truly get along—and notes ways in which the Supreme Court has been surprisingly supportive of the populists.

Meet our Columnists

Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois Co... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar, a Professor of Law at The George Washington Univ... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University. Colb tea... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973.  Bef... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He has w... more

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School of L... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is one of the leading church/state scholars in the United States, a Fox Distinguis... more

David S. Kemp
David S. Kemp

David S. Kemp is an attorney, writer, and editor at Justia. He received his B.A. in Psychology from... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of Record... more

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of... more

Ronald D. Rotunda
Ronald D. Rotunda

Ronald D. Rotunda is the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, at... more