Annual Wythe Lecture with Professor Cristina Rodríguez

satiraby John Satira, Class of 2017

Legal scholars and top-of-the-line practicing attorneys regularly visit William & Mary Law School and give presentations, talks, and lectures to the law school community, and I do my best to attend the presentations that are of interest to me. This year, I made the decision to attend the annual Wythe Lecture. The 2015 lecture took place on Tuesday, November 3, 2015, and Professor Cristina Rodríguez of Yale Law School spoke with a presentation titled “Policy Making Through Enforcement in Immigration Law and Beyond.”

Personally, I have never had too much of an interest in immigration law, but Professor Rodríguez’s lecture definitely piqued my interest. While the core of the lecture focused on the Obama Administration’s recent deferred action plan on immigration, Professor Rodríguez weaved in a variety of other topics aside from immigration law, including administrative law, constitutional law, statutory analysis, and American government. I have always been interested in administrative law, and I learned a lot by listening to Professor Rodríguez explain how administrative law doctrines affect immigration policies.

Cristina Rodríguez

Cristina Rodríguez

In my opinion, perhaps the most stimulating part of Professor Rodríguez’s lecture was her description of the interplay between the executive and legislative branches when it comes to implementing the clear enforcement priorities of legislation. Interestingly, when applied to immigration law, no clear enforcement priorities truly exist. Immigration law is made up of  a variety of contradictory laws that have been passed through the back-and-forth of the political parties throughout the years, with each party in power having different priorities when shaping immigration law. While some topics of immigration law may seem clear, such as crafting immigration policy that promotes family unity, refugee protections, and economic development, the laws do not seem to provide enough guidance on its specific priorities. For example, regarding family unity, United States immigration law offers clear guidance to promote family unity when a family separated by immigration policies includes a United States citizen. But what about family unity when a family does not include a United States citizen? Immigration law remains almost entirely silent on that topic. So is family unity truly a priority, and if so, how far can the executive branch go in implementing pro-family unity policies when they do not involve United States citizens? I found the idea that politically-charged, oft-changed laws can hinder executive implementation by not providing clear priorities fascinating.

Each year, the Wythe Lecturer publishes an article in the William & Mary Law Review based on his or her talk the previous year. If immigration law or any of the topics I discussed above are interesting to you, definitely be on the lookout for Professor Rodríguez’s article when it is published!

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