Can the Government Deport Immigrants Using Information it Encouraged Them to Provide?

14 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2017

See all articles by Amanda Frost

Amanda Frost

American University - Washington College of Law

Date Written: September 4, 2017


This Essay describes the legal and policy issues raised by any systematic effort to deport unauthorized immigrants based on information the government invited them to provide. Part I briefly surveys some of the major laws, regulations, and programs that encourage unauthorized immigrants to identify themselves. Part II analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of the statutory and constitutional arguments that immigrants could raise as a defense against deportations based on self-reported data. Part III explains that even if the government’s systematic use of such data to deport unauthorized immigrants is legal, doing so would be a poor policy choice for any administration, even one that seeks to drastically increase deportations. The federal government has always balanced immigration enforcement against other goals and values, such as deterring crime, protecting wages and working conditions, collecting taxes, and preventing U.S. citizen children from being separated from their parents. Deporting immigrants based on information provided in the service of these greater goals would elevate immigration enforcement over all other federal policies. Furthermore, doing so would almost immediately render these laws a dead letter, since no rational unauthorized immigrant would apply for visas or pay taxes if doing so were tantamount to self-deportation. Accordingly, any increase in removals from the use of such data is sure to be fleeting, while the damage done to immigrants’—and perhaps all citizens’—trust in the government will be permanent.

Keywords: DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Undocumented Immigrants, Unauthorized Immigrants, Deportation, Due Process, Privacy, Entrapment

Suggested Citation

Frost, Amanda, Can the Government Deport Immigrants Using Information it Encouraged Them to Provide? (September 4, 2017). Administrative Law Review, Vol. 2, No. 97, 2017, Criminal Justice, Borders and Citizenship Research Paper No. 3032202, Available at SSRN:

Amanda Frost (Contact Author)

American University - Washington College of Law ( email )

4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

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