by Amanda Sharry, University of California, Irvine graduate student
Immigration is a particularly salient topic in the United States. It is emotionally charged and has been politically divisive in recent years. The presenters in the Immigration Policy and Implementation session shed some light on specific policy issues that have recently arisen in immigration public discourse.
Neil Bennett, a PhD student in the Economics Department at the University of California, Irvine presented her paper, “Understanding How Establishment-Level ICE Raids Chane After Secure Community Roll-out,”(2018). Bennet’s research calls into question the effect secure communities have had on ICE raids over the last ten years. Secure communities are those counties that have agreed to share the fingerprints of in-custody immigrants with Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. While preliminary findings found significant effects, Bennett’s future research will examine the difference between counties with Democratic sheriffs versus those with Republican sheriffs, especially those counties with very close election margins. As Dr. Emily Owens, the session discussant pointed out, this is a case of two important policy considerations. First, what is the best way for ICE to distribute its scarce resources? In other words, should ICE raids be targeting work place raids or jail audits? Secondly, is there a betterment for the overall social welfare when ICE targets the appropriate population?
David Lane, a first-year MPP student at the University of California, Riverside presented his research, “A Broken Immigration Policy Leads to the Rise of Deported Veterans,” (2018). Lane seeks to further the investigation of U.S. veteran deportation. As Dr. Owens highlighted, Lane posed the question: How should policy respond to immigrants who have committed a crime but are also veterans? Mr. Lane highlights that the expansion of the legal definition of “aggravated felony” has had severe, unintended, consequences for those veterans without citizenship status. Moreover, veterans are a unique population with a unique set of needs. Many suffer from PTSD, mental health issues, or addiction. Very often alternative forms of intervention and treatment are more appropriate than prosecution and jail time. Consequently, the VA has established Veterans Court. However, as Lane points out, only those veterans with citizenship status have access to this alternative, leaving those veterans who have committed crimes, but not necessarily heinous acts of violence, vulnerable to deportation. Dr. Owens suggests that Lane’s research may be alluding to a policy solution of risk assessment. Perhaps, when weighing the criminality of a person, the criminal justice system should also take into account mitigating factors such as moral character and time spent in serving in the military.
Overall, it is clear that the U.S. immigration system is robust with complexities that go beyond the scope of this session. It is important for social scientists and students of public policy to be humbly aware of the human subjects that immigration policy affects. Policy decisions must be made not only from a utilitarian stand point, but also with a keen awareness of humanity and whom the unintended consequences may harm.