The Yale Law Journal

VOLUME
119
2009-2010
NUMBER
5
March 2010
848-1121
Comment

Constructing America: Mythmaking in U.S. Immigration Courts

Margot K. Mendelson

119 Yale L.J. 1012 (2010). 

This Note argues that immigration courts have served and continue to serve as important sites for the perpetuation of national identity myths. By focusing on a subset of cases called “cancellation of removal,” I examine the functional criteria by which immigrants are granted exemption from deportation. Despite ostensibly neutral statutory standards, immigration courts give legal sanction and shape to nostalgic, idealized, and exclusionary images of American identity. I connect this modern trend to the historical role of immigration law in constructing and amplifying narratives of identity and subordination—a pattern which has been obscured in scholarship by an overemphasis on the civil rights achievements of mid-twentieth-century immigration reforms.