May 5, 2021

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The immigration policies of the last four years have elicited tremendous political controversy. When President Trump barred people from predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, separated migrant children from their families, and declared a national emergency to fund construction of his border wall, his administration’s actions provoked congressional opposition and public revulsion.

But the roots of presidential power over immigration law are deep and the controversy longstanding. Today, as the debate over reform rages on, understanding the source of the president's power has never been more urgent.

In their recent book, The President and Immigration Law, Professors Adam B. Cox of NYU School of Law and Cristina M. Rodríguez of Yale Law School show how we got to this present moment. Presidents have been given broad authority over immigration by Congress. But today, in a world where half of all noncitizens live in violation of the law and enforcement dominates immigration policymaking, the president’s power has never been greater. That power to decide who America lets in—and who gets kicked out—poses serious challenges to the rule of law and highlights the need for radical, legislative reform.

Cox and Rodríguez joined Cecilia Muñoz, former Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council under President Obama, for a conversation on the road ahead for immigration policy and reform. What are the most pressing challenges lawmakers must grapple with? How much power should the executive branch have over enforcement? And what chance does a reform package stand of passing the Congress?


The President and Immigration Law