Speculative Immigration Policy

54 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2022 Last revised: 8 Jun 2023

See all articles by Matthew Boaz

Matthew Boaz

Washington and Lee School of Law

Date Written: August 29, 2022


This Article considers how speculative fiction was wielded by the Trump administration to implement destructive U.S. immigration policy. It analyzes the thematic elements from a particular apocalyptic novel, traces those themes through actual policy implemented by the president, and considers the harm effected by such policies. This Article proposes that the harmful outcomes
are not due to the use of speculative fiction, but rather the failure to consider the speculative voices of those who have been historically marginalized within the United States. This Article argues that alternative speculative visions could serve as a platform for radical imagination about future U.S. immigration policies. In doing so, it offers a safe space for policymakers and others to
consider ideas that might be far outside their normal political or social circles. For instance, speculative fiction creates an opportunity to engage with ideas that might otherwise be "third rails" such as the abolition of various policing forces, critiques of sovereignty, and open borders. Speculative fiction can, therefore, provide a secure realm within which one can be free to explore ideas that they might otherwise feel prohibited from considering. Here, this Article proposes
that engaging with speculative fiction written by authors from marginalized backgrounds can help to shift both individual and institutional perceptions about what bold reconstructive policy changes might be possible.

First, this Article analyzes the use of Jean Raspail's The Camp of the Saints by the Trump administration as an ideological foundation for its harmful immigration policies. This xenophobic, speculative fiction novel envisions the demise of Western civilization at the hands of mass migration. Second, this Article promotes the idea that speculative fiction can be useful and generative for imagining new immigration policies in the United States. Specifically, this Article claims that the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic created a nationwide (if not worldwide) sense of apocalypse. Such a collective experience provides an opportunity for universal reconsideration of historical policy norms, particularly those involving immigration. Finally, this Article notes that it is essential that these alternative visions be sourced from "oppositional storytellers," to use Richard Delgado's phrase. Examples abound: W.E.B. DuBois' The Comet and legal scholar Derrick Bell's The Space Traders. This Article offers additional visions: Waubgeshig Rice's Moon of the Crusted Snow, Omar El Akkad's American War, and Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower as examples for reframing conceptions of 'apocalypse' from the viewpoint of the marginalized in Western culture. This Article concludes that, while notions of abolition and other taboo progressive policy proposals may seem apocalyptic to some, this apprehension is based in fear of the unknown. By crafting specific speculative visions, these authors, as well as others, can make clear that such radical imagination in crafting humane policies can produce a knowable future
that is both manifest and necessary.

Keywords: speculative fiction, abolition, immigration, Camp of the Saints

Suggested Citation

Boaz, Matthew, Speculative Immigration Policy (August 29, 2022). Georgetown Immigration Law Review, Vol. 37, No. 183, 2023, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4203766 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4203766

Matthew Boaz (Contact Author)

Washington and Lee School of Law ( email )

204 W Washington St
Lexington, VA
United States
5404584238 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://law.wlu.edu/faculty/full-time-faculty/matthew-boaz

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