Anna Hales


This Note presents prison abolition theory and discusses how principles of abolition can be applied in the context of immigration enforcement and reform. In doing so, this Note argues for an “open borders” approach to immigration, presents several viewpoints on what such a regime may look like, and discusses how this vision can shape immigration reform efforts. In applying abolition theory to the immigration legal system, this Note uses a framework of three tenets of prison abolition. First, the assumptions upon which our current system of immigration enforcement is based, such as public safety and economic justifications, are open to questioning, and an alternate approach to migration is possible. Second, the immigration system exacts a human cost and infringes upon human dignity in ways that cannot be justified. Third, reform efforts are most effective when they envision a world beyond the current system of enforcement, rather than expanding the machinery of current enforcement efforts or merely shifting who is the target of immigration enforcement. Though it seems difficult to envision life without it, immigration enforcement as we know it is a recent invention and in many ways has proven ineffective at achieving its own purported goals. Further, the system results in significant human suffering in a myriad of ways, from the exploitation of those without status, to detention, to deportation, and beyond. As such, reform efforts that focus on who should be subject to immigration enforcement or how such enforcement should be carried out miss the opportunity to ask whether such enforcement should have a place in our society at all.



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