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Duke law and immigration debate draws scholars

Immigration, usually a divisive issue, brought scholars together at a conference held at Duke Law School.

The Duke Journal of Constitutional Law and Public Policy’s annual symposium held Friday titled Perspectives on Migration, Governance and Citizenship brought together scholarly voices from across the country to discuss papers slated for publication in the journal this spring.

The topic this year was inspired by the Arizona v. United States Supreme Court case regarding whether the state or federal government has jurisdiction over immigration law enforcement, said third-year law student Andrew Hand, editor-in-chief of the Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy.

“We want to explore immigration in its broadest form,” Hand said. “A lot of recent developments have happened, and we want to look into what we’ve got right now with immigration policy, where it’s going and where it ought to go.”

The title, which was intentionally vague, sought to capture the vision of generating dialogue among scholars who focus on immigration with those who think about political structures in a domestic and international setting, said Noah Pickus, Nannerl Keohane director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics and one of the organizers of the event.

The three panels through the day covered the merits of using time as opposed to other bases for determining citizenship, the role of the government in enforcing immigration policies and an international comparison of United States and European Union migration policies.

Established Spring 2005, the symposium invites experts on the selected topic to discuss and comment on relevant papers. The authors then incorporate the feedback received during the conference before submitting a final version for publication in the Spring issue of the Journal, Hand explained. This year’s symposium is the largest that the Journal has organized yet.

The symposium featured a small discussion of a paper by Matthew Smith, Law ’11 about immigration enforcement on Thursday followed by a series of speakers and panels open to the public Friday. The panels covered political theory, federalism and international approaches.

“It was a really great learning experience receiving feedback from older, more experienced scholars, for me as more of a junior,” said David Rubenstein, associate professor at the Washburn University School of Law who presented his paper on federalism.“The negative feedback is sometimes just as important and more important than the positive feedback,” he said.

Professor Stephen Lee from the University of California Irvine School of Law expressed his excitement for the opportunity to interact with what he considers a strong law faculty with a focus on structural constitutional law at Duke. He also appreciated the interdisciplinary nature of the symposium.

“When you have three different topics like that all on the same conflict, it’s very stimulating,” Lee said.

The Kenan Institute for Ethics and the Program in Public Law collaborated with the Journal to organize the symposium.

“The interdisciplinary aspect is great—bringing together people who work in different disciplines and approach issues from different perspectives,” said Brianna Nofil, Trinity ’12 and a postgraduate fellow at the Kenan Institute who attended the symposium.

Pickus emphasized that though much of what Kenan does is focused on the applications of ethics, part of its responsibility is also to create conversations that generate new ideas.

“If you ask literally, what our role was here, we tried to bring in different disciplines and perspectives to identify,” Pickus said. “That’s the heart of what a university does.”

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