The Policy and Politics of Immigrant Rights

01 January 2007

This article examines how immigration policies over the past decade have affected immigrant rights, scrutinizes administrative and legislative efforts to improve or eliminate these measures, and makes recommendations for advancing a due process agenda in the future. The first part of this article analyzes administrative and legislative proposals under four themes: 1) checks and balances, 2) punishment does not fit the crime, 3) judicial review, and 4) detention. The second part of this article identifies efforts to redress measures emanating from the 1996 immigration laws and policies issued after September 11, 2001. For example, it analyzes legislation introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate to restore discretion, efforts to engage the Department of Homeland Security on the complaint process and treatment of immigration detainees, and Supreme Court decisions raising issues on the interpretation of "aggravated felony." Part three of this article summarizes the legislative debate around "comprehensive immigration reform" and attempts made by select Senators in 2006 to add basic safeguards in the legislation, such as expanded protections for asylum seekers; discretionary waivers for immigrants who can show strong equities and facts in their cases; and restrictions on retroactively applying new immigration penalties. Part four of this article describes why some efforts to restore basic protections for immigrants have been challenging for advocates and Members of Congress, and makes recommendations for moving a due process agenda forward.