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Yale Law Journal




Yale L.J.

First Page



The era of Chinese Exclusion left a legacy of race-based deportation. Yet it also had an impact that reached well beyond removal. In a seminal decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a law that required people of “Chinese descent” living in the United States to display a certificate of residence on demand or risk arrest, detention, and possible deportation. Immigration control provided the stated rationale for singling out a particular group of U.S. residents and subjecting them to race-based domestic policing. By treating these policing practices as part and parcel of the process of deportation, the Court obscured the full reach of the law and its impact on U.S.communities. Through case studies of immigration policing and “anti-illegal immigrant” nuisance ordinances, this Essay argues that a “deportation-centric” framework continues to provide too limited a lens to recognize and redress unjustified surveillance within the United States. It argues for adopting what I call a “polity-centric” framework, which treats immigration status as necessarily fluid rather than fixed, and which considers the impact of front-end enforcement practices — including race-based demands to justify one’s presence — in light of the aim of building an integrate dpolitical community. This Essay closes by considering how a polity-centric framework could reorient how we understand the reach of immigration enforcement as it relates to antidiscrimination and Fourth Amendment doctrine.

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