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Johnson: Courts might be an immigration refuge (VIDEO)

March 23, 2017


Dreyfous lecturer Kevin Johnson, dean of UC Davis School of Law, discusses immigration law and policy developments under the Trump administration March 20 at Tulane Law.


Relatives of Dreyfous Lecture namesakes George Abel and Mathilde Schwab Dreyfous listen to Dean Kevin Johnson of UC Davis School of Law.

The Trump administration’s immigration policies are creating a climate of fear in immigrant communities and prompting numerous legal challenges, but they’re also generating more scrutiny where courts previously didn’t trod, UC Davis School of Law Dean Kevin Johnson told a Tulane University Law School audience March 20.

“The courts have historically been sort of hands-off when it comes to review of cases affecting immigrants,” Johnson said during Tulane Law’s Dreyfous Lecture on Civil Liberties and Human Rights.

While litigation over Trump executive orders on immigration moves quickly through lower courts, five immigration-related cases, including several raising constitutional issues, are pending this term before the U.S. Supreme Court, Johnson said.

“Just the court taking these cases means a great deal,” he said.

“Fifty years ago, the Supreme Court rarely reviewed immigration cases. A Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice John Roberts has really made immigration law more normal and unexceptional, and there are many signs that this is going to be the case in the future.”


The George Abel and Mathilde Schwab Dreyfous Lecture on Civil Liberties and Human Rights, established in 1965, honors the founder of the Louisiana Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union and his wife, both of whom worked to end segregation and discrimination against African-Americans.

Johnson, one of the nation’s foremost authorities on immigration law, is the Mabie-Apallas Professor of Public Interest Law and Professor of Chicana/o Studies at UC Davis. He’s written extensively on the topic, blogs at ImmigrationProf and is a regular contributor on immigration law for SCOTUSblog.

Though Trump’s actions on immigration have reached broadly, Johnson said, President Barack Obama’s administration deported more undocumented immigrants than its predecessors.

And American immigration laws historically “have sought to deny entry into the country of groups that were most unpopular in the country,” including the poor, the disabled and racial minorities, Johnson said.

“It’s really a myth that we embrace huddled masses because we do our very best to keep out the poor and working people from migrating legally to the United States.”



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