Welcome to Amerizona - immigrants out! Assessing "dystopian dreams" and "usable futures" of immigration reform, and considering whether "immigration regionalism" is an idea whose time has come.

Author:Aoki, Keith
Position:Country overview
 
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ABSTRACT

In this essay, we introduce the heuristics of "dystopian dream" and "usable future" to assess competing visions for immigration reform. We apply these heuristics to potential changes to the U.S. immigration system and immigration federalism as reflected in legislative and law enforcement activities, policy proposals, speeches, and scholarship. We consider President Obama's recent revival of Emma Lazarus's "The New Colossus" and aspects of the Schumer/Graham blueprint for comprehensive reform alongside the dystopian dream of immigration reform reflected in Arizona's S.B. 1070 and other state- and local-level efforts to regulate both immigrants and immigration. We also consider side-by-side recent work on immigration and localism and comprehensive immigration reform by urban futurist Joel Kotkin and immigration law professor Dean Kevin Johnson, respectively. In addition to providing valuable insights on the relationship between immigration and economic, social, and cultural dynamism and the prospective parameters of much-needed "truly comprehensive" reform, their work illustrates the ambivalent attitudes about localism within contemporary immigration policy debates, even amongst those who emphasize the fundamentally economic and labor-driven forces behind immigration today.

Our bottom line recommendation is that immigration policy formulation and implementation occur on a regional basis, federally created with strong federal oversight and without constitutional disruption of immigration federalism. What we call "immigration regionalism" would move debate beyond the state power versus federal power question that has taken center stage with the Rehnquist Court's so-called "New Federalism." Acting pursuant to the Commerce Clause, the Supremacy Clause, and foreign policy objectives, the federal government would create immigration regions and a governance structure that incorporates representatives of state and local governments, as well as private sector and civil society groups. The regional units would gather and assess data and formulate policy recommendations. In this way, immigration regionalism would split the difference between a purely federal approach and a subnational one as exemplified by states like Arizona and municipalities like Hazleton, Pennsylvania, wherein legislators take dangerous, overreaching self-help measures. An "immigration regionalism" would also feature core commitments and principles and promote salutary outcomes that bring together what is best in Kotkin's and Johnson's respective "usable futures" and that resonates with recent important work on equitable regionalism and rethinking immigration federalism.

TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract Introduction I. "Dystopian Dreams"--"Amerizona" and Reviving "The New Colossus"? II. What Is a "Usable Future" and How Is It Relevant to Immigration Reform? III. Envisioning "Usable Futures"--Kotkin's Immigration-Friendly "New Localism" and Johnson's "Blueprint" for Comprehensive Immigration Reform A. Kotkin's Immigration-Friendly "New Localism" B. Johnson's "Blueprint" for Comprehensive Immigration Reform IV. Toward an "Immigration Regionalism" Concluding Remarks: Which Is The Way Forward? INTRODUCTION

"Welcome to Amerizona--Immigrants Out!" (1) We use the phrase "Amerizona" to describe a state of internal disorder represented by Arizona's recently passed S.B. 1070, as well as the flurry of state and local law-making pertaining to undocumented immigrants and immigration reform. We also use it to illustrate one of many possible futures for states, municipalities, and the entire nation so that we may ask the question: is this the future of immigration reform and of American society in this century?

In this essay, we introduce the heuristics of "dystopian dream" and "usable future" to assess multiple, competing and contradictory visions of our "immigration future" that are colliding in our lawmaking bodies and in the popular imagination. We recommend applying these heuristics to visions for immigration reform, efforts to change the U.S. immigration system, and specific possible changes to immigration federalism as reflected in legislative and law enforcement activities, policy proposals, speeches, and scholarship.

The dystopian dream of immigration reform, of which Amerizona is just one version, is often strongly anti-immigrant, exclusionary, nativist, and even racist. Unfortunately, this response to immigrants and immigration is nothing new; rather, it has occurred frequently throughout American history. The dystopian dream typically takes shape in laws, policies, enforcement practices, and popular attitudes that are hostile toward undocumented immigrants, unfriendly and unwelcoming toward noncitizens, threatening or even dangerous to people of color and linguistic minorities, and punishing of those who employ or assist "illegals." It is also reliant on racial profiling and technologies (such as biometric identification and surveillance) that are overreaching in application and arguably in nature, as well. These laws have taken on an even more ominous and absolutist cast with the close identification of immigration control and national concerns in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Yet prominent supporters of comprehensive federal immigration reform and dystopian dreamers may share a mutual concern and similar approach to the "immigration problem." Specifically, on whom to attract, recruit, and admit; whom to deport, deny admission, and discourage from coming to America; the dimensions and causes of "illegal immigration"; and the use of overreaching technologies. There has also been a conflation--a bridge between state and local law and federal law--as criminal law and immigration law have been confused with criminalization of federal immigration law. (2) Here we consider President Obama's recent revival of Emma Lazarus's "The New Colossus" and aspects of the Schumer/Graham "blueprint" for comprehensive reform alongside the dystopian dream of immigration reform reflected in Arizona's S.B. 1070 and other state- and local-level efforts to regulate both immigrants and immigration.

Unlike the dystopian dream, a "usable future" of immigration reform recognizes that immigrants and their U.S.-born family members "will help to define the future 'us'" and acknowledges that our immigration system needs comprehensive reform. (3) Through the lens of a "usable future" heuristic, (4) we consider side-by-side recent work on immigration and immigration reform by urban futurist Joel Kotkin and immigration law professor Dean Kevin Johnson. In addition to providing valuable insights on the relationship between immigration and economic, social, and cultural dynamism and the prospective parameters of much-needed "truly comprehensive" reform, their work illustrates the ambivalent attitudes about localism within contemporary immigration policy debates, even amongst those who emphasize the fundamentally economic and labor-driven forces behind immigration today.

Political and cultural values such as optimism, ingenuity, localism, diversity, integration, and democratic participation helped to build America and reform it, however gradually, to keep the nation powerful and vibrant. To a futurist such as Joel Kotkin, localism is of particular importance, as it reflects "a historic American tradition that sees society's smaller units as vital and the proper focus of most people's lives" (5) and undergirds what he calls "the new localism" which "changing demographics, new technologies and rising energy prices" (6) have helped to propel. Kotkin's progressive localist vision, which is conscientiously optimistic and opportunistic, emphasizes the importance of immigrants and immigration in America's economic, social, and cultural dynamism, especially in reviving cities, regions, and industries.

However, what is one to make of, and do about, the fact that much of the most virulent anti-immigrant activity and sentiment seems to originate on the local level? Johnson's vision, which is skeptical of localism particularly in the immigration area, offers insight into the systemic causes and conditions that give rise to undocumented immigration and proposes specific measures to fix the broken, misaligned, and misconceived aspects of our immigration regulatory system. (7) Professor Johnson provides some basics of comprehensive reform to address the fundamentally economic and labor-market forces behind immigration today, which uphold and advance specific principles of law and justice.

Our bottom line recommendation is that immigration policy formulation and implementation occur on a regional basis, as federally created with strong federal oversight and without constitutional disruption of immigration federalism. What we call "immigration regionalism" would move debate beyond the state power versus federal power question that has taken center stage with the Rehnquist Court's so-called "New Federalism." Acting pursuant to the Commerce Clause, the Supremacy Clause, and foreign policy objectives, the federal government would create immigration regions and a governance structure that incorporates representatives of state and local governments, as well as private sector and civil society groups. The regional units would gather and assess data and formulate policy recommendations. In this way, immigration regionalism would split the difference between a purely federal approach and a subnational one as exemplified by states like Arizona and municipalities like Hazleton, Pennsylvania, wherein legislators take dangerous, overreaching self-help measures regarding "illegal immigration." (8) An "immigration regionalism" would also feature core commitments and principles and promote salutary outcomes that bring together what is best in Kotkin's and Johnson's respective "usable futures" and that resonate with recent important work on equitable regionalism and rethinking immigration...

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