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The Promise of a Subject-Centered Approach to Understanding Immigration Noncompliance
Journal on Migration and Human Security (2017)
  • Emily Ryo
Unauthorized immigrants and immigration enforcement are once again at the center of heated public debates and reform agendas. This paper examines the importance of applying a subject-centered approach to understanding immigration noncompliance and to developing effective, ethical, and equitable immigration policies. In general, a subject-centered approach focuses on the beliefs, values, and perceptions of individuals whose behavior the law seeks to regulate. This approach has been widely used in non-immigration law contexts to produce a richer and more nuanced understanding of legal noncompliance. By contrast, the subject-centered approach has been an overlooked and underappreciated tool in the study of immigration noncompliance. This paper argues that a subject-centered understanding of why people obey or disobey the law has the potential to generate new insights that can advance public knowledge and inform public policy on immigration in a number of important ways. Specifically, the paper considers how the use of this approach might help us: (1) recognize the basic humanity and moral agency of unauthorized immigrants, (2) appreciate not only direct and immediate costs of immigration enforcement policies, but also their indirect and long-term costs, and (3) develop new and innovative strategies to achieving desired policy goals.
  • unauthorized migration,
  • legal noncompliance,
  • subject-centered approach
Publication Date
Summer 2017
Citation Information
Emily Ryo. "The Promise of a Subject-Centered Approach to Understanding Immigration Noncompliance" Journal on Migration and Human Security Vol. 5 Iss. 2 (2017) p. 285 - 296
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