The Undermining Mechanisms of ‘Rule of Law’ Objections: A Response to Song and Bloemraad

The Ethics of Migration Policy Dilemmas Project (2022)
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In their article, “Immigrant legalization: A Dilemma Between Justice and The Rule of Law,” Sarah Song and Irene Bloemraad address rule of law objections to policies that would regularize the status of undocumented immigrants in the United States. On their view, justice requires that liberal democratic states (i.e., states that are committed to individual liberty and universal equality) provide pathways for undocumented immigrants to regularize their status. We do not disagree with Song and Bloemraad’s account: rule of law and regularization policies are not inconsistent, and in fact regularization supports rule of law, when properly understood. Our view is that there needs to be a deeper investigation into the motivations of “rule of law” objections considered in Song and Bloemraad’s account. We argue that the real purpose of these objections is not necessarily to serve as an alternative to the justice-based claims of undocumented immigrants, but as a way to undermine them. On our account, these rule of law objections accomplish this undermining task through the mechanisms of dog whistling, discrediting and distorting, and ostracizing.

Author Profiles

José Jorge Mendoza
University of Washington
Amelia M. Wirts
University of Washington


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