St. Mary's Law Journal


This Article analyzes how the Antiterrorism Act and the Immigration Reform Act reflect a larger historical dynamic in the relationship between domestic subordination and immigration law. The U.S. government historically employed immigration laws in an effort to protect the established political and social order. History reveals a strong correlation between the severe treatment politically subversive U.S. citizens received and the constriction of the immigration laws. This Article argues the lack of constitutional protections for noncitizens helps to explain the recurrent backlash against them. The treatment of noncitizens suggests how far the government might go to suppress domestic political dissent by citizens if the Constitution failed to offer protections, or if courts limited protections through constitutional interpretation. The U.S. government’s treatment of noncitizens reveals much about this society’s views towards citizens who share some of the same characteristics as the noncitizens which the government punishes under color of law. The Supreme Court has consistently held that few substantive constitutional protections apply to noncitizens. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 is the latest chapter in this long saga and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 fits into a similar mold. The United States immigration laws historically reflect a striving for national homogeneity, favoring immigrants who are not poor, not criminals, not racial or ethnic minorities, and not homosexual. When immigrants are as different from the mainstream as they have been in recent years, a majority of the public has reacted negatively and, not infrequently, ferociously. This offers a frightening insight into the American consciousness about domestic as well as foreign minorities of all types.


St. Mary's University School of Law