“Dreamers” and Others: Immigration Protests, Enforcement, and Civil Disobedience

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In this short paper I hope to use some ideas drawn from the theory and practice of civil disobedience to address one of the most difficult questions in immigration theory, one rarely addressed by philosophers or other theorists working on the topic: How should we respond to people who violate immigration law? I will start with what I take to be the easiest case for my approach—that of so-called “Dreamers”—unauthorized immigrants in the US who were brought to this country while still children (often as infants) and who have spent the majority of their lives in the US. Members of this group have engaged in wide-scale protests, making the civil disobedience paradigm all the more plausible. I will then move on to the case of unauthorized immigrants who have engaged in protests, but who do not fall into the “Dreamer” category. Finally, I will consider whether thinking about immigration law violations from the perspective of civil disobedience—and the proper response to that—can help us think about immigration enforcement more generally.
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Archival date: 2018-05-11
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