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Legal Attitudes of Immigrant Detainees

54 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2017  

Emily Ryo

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Date Written: February 28, 2017

Abstract

A substantial body of research shows that people’s legal attitudes can have wide-ranging behavioral consequences. In this paper, I use original survey data to examine long-term immigrant detainees’ legal attitudes. I find that the majority of detainees express a felt obligation to obey the law, and do so at a significantly higher rate than other U.S. sample populations. I also find that the detainees’ perceived obligation to obey U.S. immigration authorities is significantly related to their evaluations of procedural justice, as measured by their assessments of fair treatment while in detention. This finding remains robust controlling for a variety of instrumental and detainee background factors, including the detainees’ experiences with the legal system and legal authorities in their countries of origin. Finally, I find that vicarious procedural justice evaluations based on detainees’ assessments of how others are treated are as important to detainees’ perceived obligation to obey U.S. immigration authorities as their personal experiences of fair or unfair treatment. I discuss the broader implications of these findings and their contributions to research on procedural justice and legal compliance, and research on legal attitudes of noncitizens.

Suggested Citation

Ryo, Emily, Legal Attitudes of Immigrant Detainees (February 28, 2017). 51 Law & Society Review 99 (Forthcoming); USC CLASS Research Papers No. CLASS17-10; USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 17-8. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2925337

Emily Ryo (Contact Author)

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

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