NewYorkUniversity
LawReview
Current Issue

Volume 94, Number 1

April 2019
Articles

Afrofuturism, Critical Race Theory, and Policing in the Year 2044

I. Bennett Capers

In 2044, the United States is projected to become a “majority-minority” country, with people of color making up more than half of the population. And yet in the public imagination—from Robocop to Minority Report, from Star Trek to Star Wars, from A Clockwork Orange to 1984 to Brave New World—the future is usually envisioned as majority white. What might the future look like in year 2044, when people of color make up the majority in terms of numbers, or in the ensuing years, when they also wield the majority of political and economic power? And specifically, what might policing look like? This Article attempts to answer these questions by examining how artists, cybertheorists, and speculative scholars of color—Afrofuturists and Critical Race Theorists—have imagined the future. What can we learn from Afrofuturism, the term given to “speculative fiction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns [in the context of] techno culture?” And what can we learn from Critical Race Theory and its “father” Derrick Bell, who famously wrote of space explorers to examine issues of race and law? What do they imagine policing to be, and what can we imagine policing to be in a brown and black world?

Constitutional Gerrymandering Against Abortion Rights: NIFLA v. Becerra

Erwin Chemerinsky, Michele Goodwin

In National Institute of Family Life Advocates v. Becerra, the Supreme Court said that a preliminary injunction should have been issued against a California law that required that reproductive healthcare facilities post notices containing truthful factual information. All that was required by the law was posting a notice that the state of California makes available free and low-cost contraception and abortion for women who economically qualify. Also, unlicensed facilities were required to post a notice that they are not licensed by the state to provide healthcare.

In concluding that the California law is unconstitutional, the Court’s decision has enormously important implications. It puts all laws requiring disclosures in jeopardy because all, like the California law, prescribe the required content of speech. All disclosure laws now will need to meet strict scrutiny and thus are constitutionally vulnerable. Moreover, the ruling is inconsistent with prior Supreme Court decisions that allowed the government to require speech of physicians intended to discourage abortions. The Court ignored legal precedent, failed to weigh the interests at stake in its decision, and applied a more demanding standard based on content of speech.

But NIFLA v. Becerra is only secondarily about speech. It is impossible to understand the Court’s decision in NIFLA v. Becerra except as a reflection of the conservative Justices’ hostility to abortion rights and their indifference to the rights and interests of women, especially poor women. In this way, it is likely a harbinger of what is to come from a Court with a majority that is very hostile to abortion.

Subfederal Immigration Regulation and the Trump Effect

Huyen Pham, Pham Hoang Van

The restrictive changes made by the Trump presidency on U.S. immigration policy have been widely reported: the significant increases in both interior and border enforcement, the travel ban prohibiting immigration from majority-Muslim countries, and the decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Beyond the traditional levers of federal immigration control, this administration has also moved aggressively to harness the enforcement power of local and state police to increase interior immigration enforcement. To that end, the administration has employed both voluntary measures (like signing 287(g) agreements deputizing local police to enforce immigration laws) and involuntary measures (threatening to defund jurisdictions with so-called “sanctuary” laws).

What has been the “Trump Effect” on subfederal governments’ immigration policies? We define the Trump Effect as the influence that Trump’s immigration policies have had on the immigration policies of states, cities, and counties. Have they fallen in line with the federal push for restrictive policies and increased enforcement, or have they resisted? Using our unique Immigrant Climate Index (ICI), we track the response of cities, counties, and states by analyzing the immigration-related laws they enacted in 2017—the first year of the Trump administration—and comparing it to previous years’ activity. Based on our data, we make several observations. First, subfederal governments have responded with surprising speed and in unprecedented numbers to enact laws that are almost uniformly pro-immigrant. In response to increased federal enforcement, these subfederal governments have enacted “sanctuary” laws limiting their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. Most of these laws were enacted by cities and counties, which enacted more immigration regulations in this one year than they enacted during the previous twelve years combined (2005–16).

Second, in the context of historical ICI scores, these immigrant-protective laws helped to pull the national ICI score sharply upward. By assigning scores (positive or negative) to each subfederal immigration law, our ICI has tracked the climate for immigrants on a state-by-state basis and identified distinct phases in subfederal immigration regulation since 2005. Though the national ICI score (where individual state scores are added together, through time) remains highly negative, we observe a distinct Trump effect in 2017: Immigrant-protective laws enacted by certain jurisdictions are creating more positive climates for immigrants in those jurisdictions.

Finally, the nature of governmental sanctuary in 2017 was distinctly more diverse than the sanctuary we have seen in decades past. In 2017, big urban cities were not the most active sanctuary cities, as was the case in past years; rather, medium-sized cities and suburbs with populations under 100,000 prevailed. Though most of these smaller jurisdictions voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, a surprising number voted for Trump. Moreover, new sanctuary entities have emerged—including public school districts, public universities, and even mass transit authorities—which have limited their own cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. This diversity in government sanctuary reflects another aspect of the Trump Effect: how harsh immigration enforcement policies under this administration have made immigration issues much more important to a wider range of communities and to a larger range of policy areas.