Expert says deportation is ineffective at stopping undocumented immigration

Professor Daniel Kanstroom examines the impact of deportation on individuals, families and communities.


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Oct. 17, 2012 – Boston College Law School Professor Daniel Kanstroom noted that deportation does not deter immigrants from entering the country illegally. He spoke yesterday evening as part of the Houston Journal of International Law’s annual Fall Lecture Series held at the University of Houston Law Center.

“Despite deportation laws, undocumented immigration has increased steadily from 2000 to 2007,” Kanstroom said while discussing concerns raised in his new book, "Aftermath: Deportation Law and the New American Diaspora." “What deportation has done is forcibly separate hundreds of thousands of families — an especially harsh fate for children or elderly parents left behind in America.”

Kanstroom said that the protections given by law to the family are absent from much deportation law. In general, the U.S. legal system is strongly protective of marriage and family. However, for many deportees, the legal system disregards their family ties. This approach contradicts norms of state laws, other federal laws, and international human rights law, for which a basic proposition is that the family is “the natural and fundamental group unit of society” and therefore entitled to protection.

“Tens of thousands of children of undocumented immigrants, including citizen children, have seen their families torn apart,” Kanstroom said. “The deportation system is best understood as an enforcement mechanism that implicates much more than sovereignty or immigration status. It has placed untold numbers of people at economic or health-related ricks and costs billions of dollars a year. It is anomalous, larger than you think, and growing.”

Beginning as a nation of immigrants, the United States is a now a “deportation nation,” Kanstroom said. Since 1980, the number of times an individual non-citizen has been caught on United States soil, and determined to be subject to deportation has exceeded 35 million.

“We are swimming in an ocean of deportation, and we don’t realize it,” Kanstroom said.

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