U.S. Immigration Policy in the 21st Century, with Special Reference to Education: Examining the Crosscurrents of Nativist and Accommodationist Policymaking
Olivas, Michael A.
In the spring of 2012, the Republican candidates for their party’s presidential nomination argued over immigration policy, focusing especially on a topic that few had been aware of: whether or not the undocumented should be allowed to attend college and receive resident tuition. The topic receded, especially after Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who had borne the brunt of the disdain for his “accommodationist” policies on the subject, left the race. Yet, the higher-education debate that emerged briefly has since become a more sustained controversy, and in the summer of 2012, President Barack Obama enacted a significant policy change in the use of prosecutorial discretion concerning undocumented college students, a continuation of his 2011 review of assigning priorities to those who would be removed or deported from the United States if their status were unauthorized. Paradoxically, in the early 21st century, there has been a rise in the country’s anti-immigrant sentiment, especially in the growing enactment of “restrictionist” state and local ordinances, many of which are playing out in courts and legislatures. At the same time, there have been widespread efforts to incorporate these students and undocumented families into the larger community—not just in progressive enclaves, but in surprisingly mainstream and heartland areas. This paper will examine these contradictory strains of U.S. immigration policy issues in more detail, employing the fundamental trope of education as the anchor for the good, the bad and the ugly of immigration policies and the resultant discourse.