By Susan Bibler Coutin, professor of criminology, law and society and anthropology
The current U.S. immigration system causes great human suffering, with individuals risking bodily harm or death to get across U.S. and other borders that are increasingly militarized. As enforcement has increased, organized crime rings have displaced small-time smugglers, making crossings more dangerous. At the same time, strict enforcement affects lawful citizens and permanent residents, especially marginalized groups, such as the poor, who are subject to identity documentation requirements but often have a hard time meeting them. We need a better system -- a sustainable solution. Ideally, the country can develop a system that facilitates the integration of those who are already here and while unifying families and responding to the needs of asylum seekers. My research on the way U.S. laws and policies affect immigrant communities will shed light on these challenges. I’m aiming to develop a comparative team-based research project to examine enforcement trends in immigration, prisons, and other arenas -- a project I hope will illuminate policy opportunities and shortcomings.