Michelle Chen posted “How Racist is U.S. Immigration Policy?” on RaceWire, the Colorlines blog. In it, she explored the analysis of constitutional scholars Liav Orgad and Ted Ruthizer.
It’s been over a century since the U.S. government wrote racial exclusion into law, and for the past few generations, American immigration policy and race have courted each other without directly overlapping—at least not on paper. Yet, even in a post-Jim Crow era, race continues to color the politics and mechanics of immigration policy. A scholarly analysis of immigration law questions whether, 120 years after the Chinese exclusion act, the government carries out racial exclusion by proxy.
In “Religion and Nationality in Immigration Selection: 120 Years after the Chinese Exclusion Case,” constitutional scholars Liav Orgad and Ted Ruthizer say immigration policy may enable the use of certain racially freighted criteria, like cultural factors or national identity, to filter immigration. Just as police may rely on “gut” feelings to invoke racial profiling, so policymakers can craft restriction rules that elevate people of a certain color or ethnicity. Racial exclusion in immigration regulation plays out in various ways: policies might appear “neutral” but nonetheless influence the racial composition of in-migration; they could be inadvertently racially exclusive by favoring certain qualities—more education or job skills, for example. As with many issues of “race-blind” versus “race-conscious” policy, the balancing act lies in being cognizant of racial disparities without entrenching harmful discrimination.
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