Skip to main content
Less Enforcement, More Compliance
UCLA Law Review (2015)
  • Emily Ryo, University of Southern California
A common assumption underlying the current public discourse and legal treatment of unauthorized immigrants is that unauthorized immigrants are lawless individuals who will break the law—any law—in search of economic gain. This notion persists despite substantial empirical evidence to the contrary. Drawing on original empirical data, this Article examines unauthorized immigrants and their relationship to the law from a novel perspective to make two major contributions. First, I demonstrate that unauthorized immigrants view themselves and their noncompliance with U.S. immigration law in a manner that is strikingly different from the prevalent view of criminality and lawlessness found in popular and legal accounts. Unauthorized immigrants’ decisions to cross the border—and to remain in the United States despite their lack of legal status—are likely shaped in large measure by their distinct normative views of themselves and their economic situations, as well as their perceptions about the lack of legitimacy of U.S. immigration law. Second, I show why understanding these views and values of unauthorized immigrants may have significant implications for promoting voluntary compliance with U.S. immigration law.
  • immigration law,
  • unauthorized migration,
  • social norms,
  • law and society
Publication Date
March, 2015
Citation Information
Emily Ryo. "Less Enforcement, More Compliance" UCLA Law Review Vol. 62 (2015)
Available at: