By Carol M Swain

Debating Immigration (Cambridge University Press; 2 edition, August 31, 2018), edited by Carol M. Swain presents twenty original and updated essays, written by some of the world’s leading experts and pre-eminent scholars that explore the nuances of contemporary immigration in the United States and Europe. This volume is organized around the following themes: economics, demographics and race, law and policy, philosophy and religion, and European politics. Its topics include comprehensive immigration reform, the limits of executive power, illegal immigration, human smuggling, civil rights and employment discrimination, economic growth and unemployment, and social justice and religion.

More than a decade ago, the first edition of Debating Immigration was published. It received much attention and was used in classrooms around the world.  Readers praised the statue of the contributors, the diversity of perspectives, and the book’s readability for non-experts.  In this revised edition, Carol M. Swain has strived to maintain the same high standards of the first book. Readers will encounter some new voices as well as updates.

A timely second edition, Debating Immigration is an effort to bring together divergent voices to discuss various aspects of immigration often neglected or buried in discussions. In this volume you will find ideologically diverse essays from distinguished experts and scholars from different academic backgrounds. It is written for a wide audience, including public policymakers and educated lay people. The topics covered makes it an excellent text for high school and college students.

Many major developments occurring since 2007 have affected migration worldwide, especially in the United States.  It has been more than thirty-five years since Congress has passed major legislation affecting immigration. American presidents, most notably Barack Obama, used executive powers to make changes at the margins.  President Obama’s efforts, however, have encountered opposition and in some cases reversal since the election of Donald J. Trump, and outsider candidate who campaigned in 2016 as a restrictionist. In the year since his election, President Trump has taken actions consistent with many of his campaign promises and has begun to use executive action and agencies to make some substantive changes.

In an interview, Dr. Carol M. Swain can discuss these significant events that have helped shape immigration law and practices include:

  • Donald J. Trump’s 2016 election as president and his efforts to implement a travel ban affecting nations suspected of sponsoring terrorism.

  • President Trump’s immigration proposals and how well his proposals have fared so far.

  • The expansion and restriction of immigration federalism.  Such involvement dictates what state and local governments can and can’t do to assist the federal government in undertaking its role to enforce immigration laws.

  • The unprecedented use of executive actions and prosecutorial discretion to bypass Congress and enact policies that have slowed deportation of illegal immigrants and expanded immigrant rights.

The second edition of Debating Immigration is divided into four parts: I Economics, Demographics, and Race; II Law and Policy; III Philosophy and Religion; and IV Cosmopolitanism: European Nations and Immigration.

Part I,  Economics, Demographics, and Race – seeks to answer a number of pressing questions:

In Chapter I, John Skrentny asks, “How real is discrimination in the workplace?  Do employers prefer immigrant labor to the labor of native-born blacks and whites?  Are civil rights laws and protections adequate to protect working-class Americans?”

In Chapter 2, Peter Skerry explores how we should view illegal aliens: Are they victims of economic and political failure?  Are they criminals or would-be welfare recipients, or are the responsible agents agents who have made decisions in a complicated and risky environment?

In Chapter 3, Steven Camarota and Karen Zeigler examine long-term employment growth between 200 and 2017.  They query, “Who were the losers and winner in the job competition?”

In Chapter 4, Carol M. Swain looks at the Congressional Black Caucus and its representation of African Americans by asking, “How well are they doing in representing the preferences of the black rank-and-file?”

In Chapter 5, Amitai Etzioni inquires whether Hispanic and Asian immigrants are doing more to reshape America in a positive ways than blacks ever did.

Part II,  Law and Policy – covers a myriad of social issues involving legal and illegal immigrants, refugees, state and federal actions to address different aspects of the problem, and the increasing use of executive actions to by Congress.

In Chapter 6, Philip Cafaro examines a host of factors before making a progressive argument for immigration reduction, Cafaro asks, “What would a commonsense immigration policy look like?  Would it take into consideration population growth, pollution, surplus labor, and the needs to address income inequality?”

In Chapter 7, Carol M. Swain takes a look back at the thinking that surrounded the passage of the 1924 Immigration Act and the major aspects of the Trump proposal, before sharing her thoughts about what a comprehensive immigration reform bill might include.

In Chapter 8, Doug Massey and Karen Pren look at the unintended consequences of U.S. immigration policy to Latin America: What explains the patterns of Mexican immigration? What have we had so many surges since 1965?

In Chapter 9, Rogers M. Smith examines immigration policies and practices in the wake of 911 and the national security concerns that followed.  Have we created an environment that is discriminatory toward immigrants and their legal rights? What, if anything, is the trade-off between national security and immigration rights?


In Chapter 10, Noah Pickus and Peter Skerry raise questions about dichotomous terms such as “legal-illegal” and  “citizenship-non citizenship” in which the immigration debate has been framed. Is this approach misleading and does it inhibit creative public policy?  Should we be focused on immigrants as good citizens or immigrants as good neighbors? White the current immigration debate asks whether immigrants can be good citizens, Pickus and Skerry argue that, to many Americans, the more immediately pressing question is whether immigrants can be good neighbors.

In Chapter 11, Virginia Yetter and Carol M. Swain examine federalism as it relates to immigration reform: What role, if any, should the states play when it comes to involvement in immigration policies?  Does immigration federalism offer any hope for creative policy solutions for immigrants and citizens?

In Chapter 12, Carol M. Swain examines President Obama’s use of executive actions to implement his immigration goals and how this compares with President Trump’s efforts to do the same.  When is it appropriate to use executive action to bypass Congress? What problems are posed by the creation and expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA)?

Part III, Philosophy and Religion – provides historical, religious, and moral guidance.

In Chapter 13, James Edwards draws upon his perspective as a Christian congressional staffer to outline the principles that he believes should guide immigration policy.  He seeks to answer questions such as the following: How should Christians think about immigration policy? What role does the Bible bestow on civil government when it comes to the preservation of the rule of law? Should the needs of foreigners be placed on equal level with those of natives?

In Chapter 14, Stephen Macedo discusses the moral issues surrounding immigration in the U.S. and elsewhere.  After discussing the debate between a “cosmopolitan” viewpoint the promotes shared citizenship and a universal obligation to distributive justice, he poses a “civic obligations” viewpoint that argues for the existence of special obligations among citizens.  Should we adopt the cosmopolitan view or should we focus on fellow citizens in a self-governing political community? What weight should we give to the poorest Americans as we weigh their needs against the needs of the global impoverished?

In Chapter 15, Elizabeth Cohen asks why America has not developed a coherent public philosophy to undergird its approach to immigration. What impact did the British common law have on American policymakers?  What kinds of policy outputs can we expect in the future?

Part IV, Cosmopolitanism: European Nations and Immigration – examines different aspects of the new and changing reality for European nations.

In Chapter 16, Marc Morjé Howard and Sara Goodman examine citizenship policies and politics in Western Europe, asking “How important  is political contestation to citizenship policy, and what role should political parties play in political mobilization?

In Chapter 17, Susan F. Martin places international migration trends, causes and consequences into the context of broader aspects of globalization: What is the relationship between movements of people and other facets of globalization, such a movements of capital and goods?  What are the similarities and differences in those three elements of globalization?

In Chapter 18, Randall Hansen discusses the changed attitude, rhetoric, and posture toward immigration evident among major European states.  Looking at population growth and the needs of the nation, Hansen asks, “How can Europe ensure socioeconomic integration of such migrants, given its broad failure to integrate previous waves of migrants economically?  Second, he asks how can Europe ensure that the new migrants embrace the liberal democratic values institutionalized in Europe at the cost of much blood and “treasure”?

In Chapter 19, Louise Shelley and Camilo Pardo examine the large-scale migration into Europe today and which actors are responsible for smuggling human cargo. Questions include: How much does this rely on corruption?  How are the migrants paying to be smuggled? Where are they coming from? To what extent are individuals coming as single males or as family members? What financial conditions does this smuggling impose on the migrants when they arrive in Europe?

In Chapter 20, Carol M. Swain gives an overview of the volume and highlights areas of agreement and disagreement.  Overall, she emphasizes the importance of continued debate to find solutions that will lead to successful immigration reform.

The second edition of Debating Immigration goes beyond the earlier edition to explore new ideas on a perennial problem.  Nevertheless, it remains true that a major strength of Debating Immigration lies in the willingness of its contributors to tackle such controversial issues as racial discrimination, religion, and the moral basis for immigration restrictions at home and abroad.  The volume offers approaches that range from economics to demographics to moral and religious perspectives. In addition, the volume examines new issues related to the president’s use of executive orders to bypass foot-dragging Congress as well as the contested areas of immigration federalism.

Given the many anthologies on immigration, it is appropriate to explain why this updated volume is needed.  First, the immigration scene has changed dramatically over the past decade. Race and religion, long neglected in immigration debates, continue to play a more central role in public discussions. This is particularly true concerning the impact of legal and illegal immigration on African Americans and, now low-wage, low-skilled white Americans.  In the past, discussions of immigration and religion have often been focused on the Catholic Church’s more universal approach, while ignoring or belittling as racist any restrictionist viewpoints emanating from Protestants.

This volume is a wholehearted effort to address neglected areas in the public debate.  It should be noted, however, that the contributors to Debating Immigration continue to have widely differing views on a range of issues.  We do not pretend to have definitive answers to the questions we raise; rather it is our desire to stimulate open and vigorous debate about immigration and citizenship.  We would encourage more public forums in which opponents could get together and share their views, as we have done here.



Dr. Carol M. Swain is an award-winning political scientist, a former professor of political science and professor of law at Vanderbilt University, and a lifetime member of the James Madison Society, an international community of scholars affiliated with the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. Before joining the faculty at Vanderbilt, Dr. Swain was a tenured associate professor at Princeton University. She is the author or editor of eight books. Her highly acclaimed Black Faces, Black Interests: The Representation of African Americans in Congress won three national prizes, including the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award for the best book published in the U. S. on government, politics or international affairs. In addition, Cambridge University Press nominated her book, The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration, for a Pulitzer Prize. Dr. Swain regularly makes guest appearances on national and international radio and TV shows. She had a major role in Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party and has had four viral Prager University videos. Dr. Swain is the host of a podcast, Common Sense Conversations with Dr. Carol M. Swain (ITunes and Stitcher Radio) and “Two Minutes to Think About it” that airs nationwide on Bott Radio and American Family Radio.



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