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The Political (Mis)Representation of Immigrants in the Census

Ming Hsu Chen

Who is a member of the political community? What barriers to inclusion do immigrants face as outsiders to this political community? This article describes several barriers facing immigrants that impede their political belonging. It critiques these barriers not on the basis of immigrants’ rights but based on their rights as current and future members of the political community. This is the second of two Essays. The first Essay focused on voting restrictions impacting Asian American and Latino voters. The second Essay focuses on challenges to including immigrants, Asian Americans, and Latinos in the 2020 Census. Together, the Essays critique the exclusion of immigrants from the political community because this exclusion compromises representational equality.

The Political Branding of Us and Them: The Branding of Asian Immigrants in the Democratic and Republican Party Platforms and Supreme Court Opinions 1876-1924

Ciara Torres-Spelliscy

In this piece, I examine the political branding of Asian immigrants by comparing the rhetoric used in the political platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties from 1876 to 1924 to the language deployed in U.S. Supreme Court opinions during the same time period. The negative verbiage repeated at national political conventions branded the Chinese as a threat to labor, immoral, unassimilable, diseased, and invaders. Interestingly, the Republican authors of their political platforms were multiracial, and yet they produced rhetoric as harshly anti-Asian as their Democratic counterparts, who included ex-Confederate soldiers and even KKK members. And disappointingly, the Supreme Court picked up this derogatory language found in both parties’ political platforms and continued to echo it in cases that diminished the rights of Chinese and other Asian immigrants. This history is then linked to the present day through the example of the negative impact of politicians’ calling the contemporary COVID-19 pandemic “Kung Flu.”

Relying on the Unreliable: Challenging USCIS’s Use of Police Reports and Arrest Records in Affirmative Immigration Proceedings

Erica D. Rosenbaum

Although many scholars have recognized the need for increased procedural protections for immigrants in removal proceedings, very little attention has been paid to the process afforded to immigrants applying affirmatively to acquire lawful status. However, due to the collection of important interests implicated by affirmative immigration proceedings, procedure still matters even if deportation is not immediately at stake. This Note helps to fill the scholarly gap by discussing a relatively recent phenomenon in affirmative immigration practice: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ requests for and reliance on police reports, arrest records, and other documents underlying any contact an applicant has had with the criminal justice system, even when the charges were ultimately dropped or the applicant was acquitted. This practice is particularly problematic in light of the unreliability of these documents, the role they play in the adjudication of applications, and the difficulty applicants face in appealing unfavorable decisions. Thus, this Note argues that not only is USCIS’s policy unlawful under the Administrative Procedure Act, but it also violates the guarantee of Due Process provided by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.

A Poll Tax by Another Name: Considering the Constitutionality of Conditioning Naturalization and the “Right to Have Rights” on an Ability to Pay

John Harland Giammatteo

Permanent residents must naturalize to enjoy full access to constitutional rights, particularly the right to vote. However, new regulations from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), finalized in early August and originally slated to go into effect one month before the 2020 election, would drastically increase the cost of naturalization, moving it out of reach for many otherwise-qualified permanent residents, while at the same time abolishing any meaningful fee waiver for low-income applicants. In doing so, USCIS has sought to condition naturalization and its attendant rights on an individual’s financial status.

In this Essay, I juxtapose the new fee regulations with a growing caselaw and scholarly literature about financial status, voting, and an individual’s ability to pay. Placed alongside the ability-to-pay caselaw—including Griffin v. Illinois and Bearden v. Georgia and, more recently, the litigation about Florida’s felony disenfranchisement provisions—it is clear that the new fee policies should be seen as due process and equal protection violations and struck down. I conclude by noting possibilities for litigation or legislation that would preserve a meaningful safety valve to allow low-income individuals to realize the full benefits of naturalization and access all the rights that come with it.

Laboratories of Exclusion: Medicaid, Federalism, & Immigrants

Medha D. Makhlouf

Medicaid’s cooperative federalism structure gives states significant discretion to include or exclude various categories of noncitizens. This has created extreme geographic variability in noncitizens’ access to health coverage. This Article describes federalism’s role in influencing state policies on noncitizen eligibility for Medicaid and its implications for national health policy. Although there are disagreements over the extent to which public funds should be used to subsidize noncitizen health coverage, this Article reveals that decentralized policymaking on noncitizen access to Medicaid has weakened national health policy by increasing wasteful spending and exacerbating inequities in access to healthcare. It has failed to incentivize the type of state policy experimentation and replication that justifies federalism arrangements in other contexts. Rather, federalism has (1) enabled states to enact exclusionary policies that are ineffective and inhumane and (2) created barriers for states to enact inclusionary policies that advance the normative goals of health policy. This Article concludes that noncitizen access to health coverage is best addressed through centralized policymaking.

This Article contributes to scholarly conversations about federalism and healthcare by providing a case study to test the efficacy of federalism arrangements in achieving equity for those who were left behind by health reform. More broadly, it adds to the federalism literature by synthesizing insights from three fields that rarely comment on one another: health law, immigration law, and federalism theory.

Price Tags on Citizenship: The Constitutionality of the Form N-600 Fee

Juan Esteban Bedoya

Proof of citizenship is of paramount importance. In the United States, the need for citizenship documentation is particularly acute in light of heightened immigration enforcement. For U.S. citizens born abroad, proof of citizenship can be obtained by submitting a Form N-600 to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which in turn provides a Certificate of Citizenship. Although these individuals are entitled to citizenship and all of its benefits by statute, they are required to pay $1170 in order to obtain this Certificate. This Note seeks to analyze the constitutionality of this exorbitant fee. Determination of citizenship confers with it important rights and several privileges, such as access to employment, the ability to vote and seek public office, and many other government benefits. Perhaps more importantly, determination of citizenship also confers protection—protection from detention, from removal proceedings, and from deportation. This Note analyzes the viability of a constitutional challenge to the $1170 filing fee through a procedural due process claim, the importance of which is underscored by the life-altering consequences of citizenship as well as the benefits and protections it affords. Simply put, access to the benefits of citizenship should not turn on a citizen’s ability to pay a prohibitively expensive fee; the Constitution demands greater protections.

Isolated and Unreachable: Contesting Unconstitutional Restrictions on Communication in Immigration Detention

Zachary Manfredi, Joseph Meyers

As of January 1, 2019, the federal government held more than 51,000 noncitizens in immigration detention. Over the course of a year, nearly half a million noncitizens will pass through Department of Homeland Security custody within the interior of the United States while the government initiates proceedings to remove them from the country. Many of those detainees pursue immigration relief and contest both their detention and removal. However, numerous reports from the Office of the Inspector General and immigration practitioners consistently observe substantial barriers to effective communication from detention: Detainees are frequently held in or transferred to isolated locations, detention facilities often do not provide adequate telephone access or even alternative forms of communication, and facilities often deny or substantially delay in-person meetings with attorneys or other visitors. These barriers significantly affect the ability of unrepresented detainees to gather and present relevant evidence critical to litigating their removal claims. They also undermine essential communication between legal counsel and the detainees they represent in those proceedings. 

This Article argues that due process imposes affirmative obligations on the government to facilitate evidence gathering and communication with legal counsel for those noncitizens that it detains. While previous scholarship has advanced arguments for “immigration Gideon”—i.e., suggesting noncitizens should have a right to appointed counsel at state expense—our intervention instead focuses on how conditions of confinement that impair communication with counsel and evidence gathering may themselves run afoul of noncitizens’ Fifth Amendment due process rights. 

We offer a novel interpretation of recent Supreme Court and circuit court precedents on civil detention in order to ground noncitizens’ right to communicative access in the Fifth Amendment and propose a new framework for evaluating noncitizens’ rights to effective communication. Importantly, we also argue that the scope of noncitizen detainees’ rights to communicate with counsel should not be determined by the stark division between criminal and civil detention precedents. Rather, noncitizens’ access to counsel rights should encompass the procedural protections due process requires whenever the government acts as both initiator of adverse legal proceedings and jailor, including those protections traditionally associated with the Sixth Amendment. Our analysis finds that the scope of governmental obligation to provide communicative access derives from the noncitizens’ liberty interest in avoiding both detention and deportation and, in particular, follows from the government’s dual role in immigration proceedings as both initiator of adverse proceedings and jailor. The obligation to ensure a “full and fair” hearing requires that the government not impose barriers to communication that provide it with an unfair advantage in the litigation of noncitizens’ removal claims. 

We conclude that the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause imposes affirmative obligations for the government to facilitate evidence gathering and communication between noncitizen detainees and their counsel. While the scope of the state’s affirmative obligations may vary in accordance with the immigration status of the detainee, we argue that in all cases the Fifth Amendment requires the federal government to provide detained noncitizens adequate means to solicit legal representation, meet privately with retained counsel, communicate with potential witnesses, access necessary records, and prepare evidence and testimony. Conditions of confinement that frustrate these basic guarantees offend the Fifth Amendment’s protection of a full and fair hearing and should be held unconstitutional. 

Chevron and the Attorney General’s Certification Power

Jonathan P. Riedel

Congress has delegated power to the Attorney General to execute the nation’s immigration laws, adjudicate individual noncitizens’ cases, and fill interpretive gaps in the statute. The Attorney General has in turn delegated this authority, by regulation, to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). Most BIA decisions are administratively final, and noncitizens appeal unfavorable decisions directly to federal courts of appeals. In a small but growing number of cases, however, the Attorney General will step in to decide a case himself de novo after the BIA has ruled. This power of intervention and decision, sometimes known as the “referral and review” power or “certification” power, has drawn some praise for being an efficient use of the broad power afforded to the executive branch in the immigration context, but more often has sustained criticism for potential abuse. In this Note, I analyze this certification power through the lens of Chevron. In particular, I argue that Chevron deference to the BIA is appropriate because it serves the values of the Chevron doctrine—expertise, procedural regularity, and public accountability— but that Chevron deference to the Attorney General’s certified opinions is inappropriate. Courts have a responsibility under Step Zero not to defer to an interpretation of law unless its issuance adheres sufficiently to fundamental tenets of administrative law. Certified opinions are insufficient on all counts: Deference to the Attorney General’s interpretations of law issued in this manner serves none of the values of the Chevron doctrine. 

Closing the Border

Jonathan P. Riedel

Terrorists. Narcotrafficking. Coronavirus. Refugees. There are many reasons—real or imaginary, compelling or contrived—for governments to want to restrict people’s movement. In March 2019, President Trump hinted that he was considering closing the border with Mexico. He cited the vast numbers of migrants approaching the southern border as a justification for closure, then pivoted to concerns about drug trafficking. Possibly emboldened by a victory in the 2018 “travel ban” case of Trump v. Hawaii, the President asserted a unilateral power to close the border. The general consensus among political leaders and economists was that closing the border would be an economic and political catastrophe, disrupting billions of dollars’ worth of goods while doing little to combat the asylum backlog or illegal narcotics trafficking. He soon backed off, with a one-year warning to Mexico that is fast approaching as of the publication of this Note. But the question remains: Can he do it? This Note considers the question and concludes that while very brief or geographically limited closures are authorized as a matter of statute and constitutional doctrine, any indefinite, long-term, and expansive border closure would be statutorily unauthorized and give rise to meritorious due process claims by some categories of noncitizens. In between these two extremes, the permissibility of a closure would depend on the temporal and geographical scope of it, tracking general separation-of-powers principles.

As-Applied Suspension Clause Challenges to the Immigration and Nationality Act’s Jurisdictional Bars: A Pathway into District Court for Deportation Habeas Petitions

Sarah Taitz

In 2005, Congress amended the Immigration and Nationality Act to strip jurisdiction over petitions for habeas corpus challenging an order of removal or the decision to execute an order of removal. A first generation of legal challenges argued that this provision was a facial violation of the Suspension Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right to bring writs of habeas corpus, or an adequate and effective alternative to habeas. These challenges were unsuccessful, and for years, the conventional wisdom has been that noncitizens cannot bring habeas petitions to challenge or delay their removal. However, recent district court cases demonstrate the viability of a new generation of as-applied Suspension Clause challenges to the denial of habeas jurisdiction. This Note identifies and describes a category of cases where the denial of habeas jurisdiction is a Suspension Clause violation: noncitizens with orders of removal who are at risk for persecution in their countries of origin because of changed country conditions that arose while they were living in the United States. Recognizing habeas jurisdiction in these circumstances is essential to protect noncitizens’ rights and to check executive power.