Making Immigration Law

134 Harvard Law Review 2794 (2021)

UCLA School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 21-24

39 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2021

See all articles by Hiroshi Motomura

Hiroshi Motomura

University of California, Los Angeles - School of Law

Date Written: June 14, 2021


This review essay’s focus is The President and Immigration Law by Adam Cox and Cristina Rodríguez. The book makes a major contribution to immigration law and to U.S. administrative and public law more generally by connecting these fields. In particular, The President and Immigration Law offers a nuanced and persuasive historical account of the rise of presidential power over immigration. The book also advances a thought-provoking analysis of the current relationship between Congress and the President as “co-principals” in making immigration law.

When Cox and Rodríguez explore the history of presidential immigration power, they examine both the domestic and the international. Especially in the domestic domain, their claim seems exaggerated that they counter a “conventional wisdom” of congressional primacy in the making of immigration law. In fact, much of their analysis of the domestic aspects of presidential immigration power will be familiar to readers who know immigration law. But the book makes substantial contributions by reinterpreting what is familiar in immigration law to answer questions that immigration law scholars often overlook but are typical in public law scholarship.

When Cox and Rodríguez look to the future, their main focus is domestic. They view presidential immigration power as a symptom of a “structural problem” in domestic enforcement, and they end with a detailed domestic analysis. This discussion has great value, but as an assessment of the future it remains incomplete. For all of its many virtues, the book does not engage fully with the international aspects of the migration-related challenges that Presidents are likely to face in coming years and decades.

This review essay explains how the book leaves this quadrant incomplete, and why this quadrant matters. In the future, the most significant presidential decisions in responding to migration will likely to be outward-facing decisions that influence the conditions that cause people to migrate, not just from their countries of origin but also through countries of transit to the United States and other destinations.

Keywords: immigration law, immigrants' rights, civil rights, refugee law, asylum, human rights, citizenship, international economic development

Suggested Citation

Motomura, Hiroshi, Making Immigration Law (June 14, 2021). 134 Harvard Law Review 2794 (2021), UCLA School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 21-24, Available at SSRN:

Hiroshi Motomura (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles - School of Law ( email )

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