University of Chicago Legal Forum


The border has never played a larger role in the American psyche than it does today, and yet it has never been less legally significant. Today, a noncitizen’s place of residence tells you less about what rights and privileges they enjoy than it ever has in the past. The border has migrated inward, affecting many aspects of non-citizens’ lives in the United States. The divergence between the physical and legal border is no accident. Instead, it is a policy response to the perceived loss of control over the physical border. But the physical border remains porous despite these legal changes. People keep migrating even as we continue to draw boundaries within communities, homes, and workplaces far away from the border. This paper explores how U.S. law has evolved to render the border superfluous, even as its symbolic importance has grown, and how it might further evolve in the future.

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