Lawyering from a Deportation Abolition Ethic

63 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2022 Last revised: 2 Nov 2022

See all articles by Laila Hlass

Laila Hlass

Tulane University - Law School

Date Written: January 2022


This Article contributes to the emerging literature on abolition within the immigration legal system by mapping deportation abolition theory onto lawyering practice. Deportation abolitionists work to end immigrant detention, enforcement and deportation, explicitly understanding immigrant justice as part of a larger racial justice fight connected to resisting white supremacy. Although a number of deportation abolition initiatives have recently emerged to challenge the racist foundations of immigration law, most of these deportation abolition organizations have few, if any, lawyers on staff. This Article surfaces tensions related to deportation abolition theory and lawyering, including goals within abolition theory to center directly-affected people and address power and privilege differentials, including the privilege of being a lawyer. Lawyers practicing a deportation abolition ethic may confront challenges with reconciling their professional role as officers of the court and duties to their individual clients as the operate within an unjust system they seek to abolish. Despite these tensions, this Article argues that immigration lawyers interested in moving towards deportation abolition can play significant support roles in efforts to radically transform the immigration legal system, as well as in complementary efforts to address the immediate needs of those entangled in the deportation system.

Keywords: immigration, crimmigration, deportation, abolition, immigration reform, immigrant detention, mass incarceration, decarceration, law and social movements, social change, social movements, removal

Suggested Citation

Hlass, Laila, Lawyering from a Deportation Abolition Ethic (January 2022). 110 California Law Review 1597 (2022), Tulane Public Law Research Paper No. 21-9, Available at SSRN:

Laila Hlass (Contact Author)

Tulane University - Law School ( email )

6329 Freret Street
New Orleans, LA 70118
United States
5048628815 (Phone)

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