The Unintended Consequences of U.S. Immigration Enforcement Policies


00:00 | Welcome 
00:47 | Intro - Lilly Yu
01:54 | Emily Ryo
37:43 | Q&A




Emily RyoEmily Ryo
Professor of Law and Sociology
USC Gould School of Law

Paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences May 2021, 118 (21).
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U.S. immigration enforcement policy seeks to change the behaviors and views of not only individuals in the United States, but also those of prospective migrants outside the United States. Yet we still know relatively little about the behavioral and attitudinal effects of U.S. enforcement policy on the population abroad. This study uses a randomized experiment embedded in a nationally representative survey that was administered in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico to analyze the effects of U.S. deterrence policies on individuals’ migration intentions and their attitudes toward the U.S. immigration system. The two policies that the current study examines are immigration detention and nonjudicial removals. 

The survey results provide no evidence that a heightened awareness of these U.S. immigration enforcement policies affects individuals’ intentions to migrate to the United States. But heightened awareness about the widespread use of immigration detention in the United States does negatively impact individuals’ assessments about the procedural and outcome fairness of the U.S. immigration system. These findings suggest that immigration detention may foster delegitimating beliefs about the U.S. legal system without producing the intended deterrent effect.

Emily RyoAbout the speaker

Emily Ryo is a professor of law and sociology at the USC Gould School of Law. She received a JD from Harvard Law School and a PhD in Sociology from Stanford University. Immediately prior to joining USC, she was a research fellow at Stanford Law School. She served as a law clerk to the Honorable M. Margaret McKeown of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and practiced law at the international law firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen, and Hamilton.

Questions of citizenship and international migration, which raise new challenges and opportunities for democracy and diversity, are central themes in her research.  Her current research focuses on immigration detention, criminal justice, and the legal attitudes and legal noncompliance of noncitizens.  She approaches these questions through innovative interdisciplinary lenses, using diverse quantitative and qualitative methods. 

As an empirical legal scholar, she has published widely in both leading sociology and law journals, including the American Sociological ReviewUCLA Law Review, and Law & Society Review. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Haynes Foundation, among others. She was awarded an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship in 2017 to fund her project, Detention Nation: Immigration Enforcement and the Future of American Democracy.

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