Reflections on Bureaucracy and Immigration Policy

As I consider the more policy-based implications of my research on family separation in immigrant literature, I have been thinking about not only the role of Congress in forming immigration policy, but also the impact of bureaucracy. 

For my fellowship with the William & Mary DC American Politics Summer Institute, I studied the impact of political polarization on human trafficking response, as well as other inefficiencies with U.S. human trafficking policy. While it seemed that heightened reduced dimensionality of conflict surrounding human rights issues (leading these causes to be viewed as more “liberal”) has hindered progress, part of the issue is also bureaucratic. For many state governments, the intake and referral to services of trafficked persons is disjointed and lacks proper structure, an obstacle seemingly unrelated to political polarization at the federal level. Therefore, I took away that more effective human rights related policy solutions must involve sound bureaucratic structure.

This research has led me to think more about the impact of bureaucracy on immigration and family separation in the United States. While the disjointed nature of trafficked person referral seems to be more of a result of disorganization than true malice, the culture of Immigration Customs and Enforcement appears to have racist ideology rooted throughout that has greatly impacted the treatment of detained families. This issue is not simply one of disorganization, but one of a bureaucratic institution marred by racism and run by unelected, less accountable officials. This has made me ask- how can we learn from family separation conversations of the 1990s and use them to fix today’s immigration issues, specifically in an environment where our bureaucracy itself is tainted?

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