Welcome to Amerizona – Immigrants Out!: Assessing ‘Dystopian Dreams’ and ‘Usable Futures’ of Immigration Reform, and Considering Whether ‘Immigration Regionalism’ is an Idea Whose Time Has Come
59 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2010 Last revised: 30 Jul 2012
Date Written: October 20, 2010
In this essay, we introduce the heuristics of “dystopian dream” and “usable future” to assess competing visions for immigration reform. We apply these heuristics to visions for immigration reform, efforts to change the U.S. immigration system, and specific possible changes to immigration federalism as reflected in legislative and law enforcement activities, policy proposals, speeches, and scholarship. We consider President Obama’s recent revival of Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus” and aspects of the Schumer/Graham blueprint for comprehensive reform alongside the dystopian dream of immigration reform reflected in Arizona’s SB 1070 and other state- and local-level efforts to regulate both immigrants and immigration. We also consider side-by-side recent work on immigration and localism and comprehensive immigration reform by urban futurist Joel Kotkin and immigration law professor Dean Kevin Johnson, respectively. In addition providing valuable insights on the relationship between immigration and economic, social, and cultural dynamism and the prospective parameters of much-needed “truly comprehensive” reform, their work illustrates the ambivalent attitudes about localism within contemporary immigration policy debates, even amongst those who emphasize the fundamentally economic and labor-driven forces behind immigration today.
Our bottom line recommendation is that immigration policy formulation and implementation occur on a regional basis, federally created with strong federal oversight and without constitutional disruption of immigration federalism. What we call “immigration regionalism” would move debate beyond the state power v. federal power question that has taken center stage with the Rehnquist Court’s so-called “New Federalism.” Acting pursuant to the Commerce Clause, the Supremacy Clause, and foreign policy objectives, the federal government would create immigration regions and a governance structure that incorporates representatives of state and local governments, as well as private sector and civil society groups. The regional units would gather and assess data and formulate policy recommendations. In this way, immigration regionalism would split the difference between a purely federal approach and a subnational one as exemplified by states like Arizona and municipalities like Hazleton, Pennsylvania, wherein legislators take dangerous, overreaching self-help measures. An “immigration regionalism” would also feature core commitments and principles and promote salutary outcomes that bring together what is best in Kotkin’s and Johnson’s respective “usable futures” and that resonates with recent important work on equitable regionalism and rethinking immigration federalism.
Keywords: immigration, immigration reform
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