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Abstract

Immigration control, widely regarded the sovereign right of nation states, has often been pursued at the expense of civil and human rights. More than a century ago, nativists legitimated a punitive approach to immigration control that treated migrants’ rights as secondary by branding millions of newcomers to the United States as a “dangerous class”. In many ways, recent policies similarly criminalize immigrants and deploy crime control strategies in response. This article reviews the most significant of these policies at the federal and local state level, including: border security measures, detention and deportation, the 287(g) program, anti-immigrant city ordinances, and the Arizona law (SB1070). Each initiative has been framed as necessary to protect American citizens from serious crime. We focus on four ways in which these policies violate human rights: first, border security measures that result in migrant deaths violate the right to life; second, detention and deportation violate the right to liberty; third, detention and deportation punish unlawful residents as though they were guilty of criminal rather than civil violations of the law, imposing penalties that are arbitrary and disproportionately harsh; and fourth, local state policies to counter illegal immigration encourage racial profiling, a practice that violates the right to freedom from discrimination.