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CSLS Speaker Series – “Legal Phantoms: The Haunting Power of Failed Law Reform”

Monday, January 31, 2022 @ 12:45 pm - 2:00 pm

Berkeley Center for the Study of Law and Society. Speaker Series. Spring 2022.

Cosponsors: Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice, & Center for Race & Gender

Monday, January 31, 2022


Professor of Law, UC Berkeley


“Legal Phantoms: The Haunting Power of Failed Law Reform”


I will be presenting portions of a coauthored book manuscript that draws upon 135 interviews with immigrants, community organizers and leaders, lawyers, and government officials in documenting the period between 2014 and 2017. This period saw the continuation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and the failure of a proposed DACA expansion and of the Deferred Action for Parents of Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).  Ultimately, we tell a story about the limits of political imagination, sharply restricted by the central logic of U.S. immigration law and policy as it has developed in the past century and rooted in discretionary, racialized enforcement. Even as government officials imagined themselves to be bold actors developing unprecedented programs of relief for undocumented immigrants, they were in fact operating within a narrow field circumscribed by the legal and political terms of the governing discourse of the day. In fact, officials’ most imaginative political thinking was directed not toward immigration relief, which in the end was restricted and largely unsuccessful, but rather toward enforcement measures that devastated communities and markedly increased the militarization of the border between the U.S. and Mexico. The United States’ governing discourse allowed for the exercise of nearly unfettered enforcement authority, while keeping discussions about relief contained within narrowly established parameters.  

Despite these developments, those directly affected by the legal uncertainty, namely, immigrants, advocates, and organizers, withstood the violence of state action (and inaction), drawing on deep reserves of material, spiritual, and intellectual resources. Advocates and organizers showed how policy discourse could be made elastic to accommodate new terms. They resisted legal violence and they argued strenuously for new political horizons of possibility for immigrants in the U.S. Not only did they argue for programs like the Dream Act, and the various deferred action programs, they argued against immigration and criminal law enforcement programs and practices that imperiled large swaths of society irrespective of immigration status. This transformative vision, rooted in an expansive political imagination, still has the potential to transform immigration law and policy in the wake of the devastation wrought by the Trump era. Over the course of this book, we hope to recount these hopes and aspirations and the context in which they were forged, as we tell the story of the recent past.


PLACE         Zoom – Registration link here and on our website.
TIME           12:45 – 2:00pm.
INFO            https://www.csls.berkeley.edu


If you require an accommodation for effective communication (ASL interpreting/CART captioning, alternative media formats, etc.) to fully participate in this event, please contact csls@law.berkeley.edu with as much advance notice as possible and at least 7-10 days in advance of the event.




Monday, January 31, 2022
12:45 pm - 2:00 pm
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Center for the Study of Law and Society

Events are wheelchair accessible. For disability-related accommodations, contact the organizer of the event. Advance notice is kindly requested.

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