Leveraging Social Science Expertise in Immigration Policymaking

28 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2018 Last revised: 18 May 2018

Date Written: March 16, 2018


Given that immigration policies involve hotly-contested values and high-stakes consequences for immigrants, from an institutional standpoint, immigration policy should involve more expertise and less politics. Adopting evidence-based policy requires opening up immigration policymaking to internal and external voices that operate on the basis of reliable, expert information. It also requires a measure of independence to counter excesses in political decisionmaking. These voices might be administrative agencies internal to the executive branch. They might come from political channels including Congress, citizen advisory groups, or interest groups. Or they might be judicial avenues of reviewing agency reasoning and records.

This Essay examines the deficient use of social science and expertise in the modern administrative state. More specifically, it highlights key immigration policies that dismiss social scientific findings and expertise as part of Presidential and agency decision-making. This dismissal undermines both substantive and procedural protections for immigrants. Part I presents background on the key principles and structures that have led agencies to reject considerations of social science and expertise in policymaking. It then explains how this rejection has been even more pronounced in immigration law and policymaking. Part II presents examples of three signature immigration policies that dismiss relevant social science expertise: border control, crime control, and extreme vetting of refugees to prevent terrorism. Part III shows how applying traditional administrative law principles to the immigration context would encourage agencies to better leverage expertise in immigration policy.

Keywords: Immigration Law, Administrative Law, Social Science, Evidence-Based Policy

Suggested Citation

Chen, Ming Hsu, Leveraging Social Science Expertise in Immigration Policymaking (March 16, 2018). Northwestern University Law Review Online, Vol. 112, 2018, U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 18-10, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3144085

Ming Hsu Chen (Contact Author)

UC Law, San Francisco ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

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