Wednesday, February 26, 2020


Article Index


      Scholars caution “against creating simplistic solutions to contemporary problems based on complex legal The similarities between current immigration policies and the Fugitive Slave Acts provide insight into current enforcement policies and how federal policies should not follow the same patterns that earlier failed to provide equal protection under the law. In both instances, state and federal governments can enact oppressive laws that fail to recognize the humanity of the subjects of the laws.

      The Fugitive Slave Acts had no procedural protections for free blacks or fugitive slaves. Further, the plenary powers doctrine was implemented in a manner that, while reinforcing Congress's ability to legislate immigration matters, also supported the violation of Chinese migrant workers' rights. Historically, multiplying forces have widespread implications on immigrants' equal protection rights. This is evident from the allegations in the Arizona, Alabama, Georgia and Utah cases. Inevitably, having numerous states and localities enforce immigration policies will lead to increased racial profiling.

      Under the Fugitive Slave Acts, all basic rights of humanity were denied to African Americans.

       [B]lack slaves enjoyed no social status, no wealth, no political influence in the North. This was as weak and disadvantaged a minority as has ever lived in the nation. Whether free or slave, in the decades preceding the Civil War blacks were a group particularly vulnerable to profile based seizures.

      The unlawful Fugitive Slave Acts reinforced this caste-like system.

      Current anti-immigration laws in several states and municipalities across the country deny undocumented immigrants their humanity based upon their unlawful entry into the United States or permitting their immigration status to expire. Like the Fugitive Slave Acts, some state and local laws, such as those in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, and Utah, were intended to exclude people, regardless of their immigration status, from formerly homogenous states, cities and towns.


. B.A., Spelman College, J.D., Duke University School of Law.

Vernellia R. Randall
Founder and Editor
Professor Emerita of Law
The University of Dayton School of Law


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