Northwestern Events Calendar


Global Theory Workshop: Immigrant Legalization: A Dilemma between Justice and the Rule of Law

When: Monday, May 9, 2022
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM Central

Where: Scott Hall, Room 201, 601 University Place, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student

Contact: Stephen Monteiro   (847) 491-7451

Group: Department of Political Science

Category: Academic


Please join the Global Theory Workshop as they host Dr. Sarah Song from the University of California Berkeley. Session details forthcoming. 

Abstract: Immigrant legalization policies pose an ethical dilemma between justice and the rule of law. On the one hand, liberal democracies aspire to the principles of individual liberty and equality. Building on liberal ideals of justice, compelling arguments have been made for granting legal status and a path to citizenship to unauthorized migrants by virtue of the social ties they have developed, their contributions to the host society, and their vulnerability to exploitation. On the other hand, legalization poses a challenge to another important value, the rule of law, which requires government to operate within a framework of law in accordance with well-established public norms. Immigrant legalization programs are said to undermine the rule of law because they reward lawbreaking, allow queue-jumping, and incentivize further unauthorized migration. This article clarifies each horn of the dilemma, focusing on rule of law arguments. We offer a critical reappraisal of immigrant legalization policies by reflecting on the normative meaning of the rule of law and by examining empirical evidence assessing the effects of legalization. Our central contention is that legalization policies can enhance the rule of law. We offer five rule of law arguments in support of legalization, which help to mitigate the dilemma between justice and the rule of law. We conclude by discussing some policy implications of our analysis.

Sarah Song joined the Berkeley Law faculty in 2007. She is a political theorist with a special interest in issues of democracy, citizenship, migration, and inequality. She teaches primarily in the Jurisprudence and Social Policy (JSP) Program at Berkeley Law, including courses on political and legal philosophy, citizenship and migration, and feminist theory and jurisprudence. She also teaches First Amendment law in the JD curriculum.

Song is the author of Justice, Gender, and the Politics of Multiculturalism (Cambridge University Press, 2007), which won the 2008 Ralph Bunche Award from the American Political Science Association. The book explores the challenges of religious and cultural diversity by examining tensions between multiculturalism and women’s rights. 

Her second book, Immigration and Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2018), explores the values and principles that shape and ought to shape public debate about immigration. 

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