Immigration laws and policy in the United States underwent a metamorphosis during the second half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty first. Beginning with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, immigration across the US-Mexico saw its first serious levels of restriction. Radical shifts in policy in the 1980s made documented immigration impossible for many, and these legal hurdles were compounded by border militarization in the 1990s. In the 21st century a new emphasis on criminalizing undocumented immigrants has developed. These dramatic shifts have all contributed to a modern policy that seeks to control undocumented immigrants rather than deter their immigration. Modern undocumented immigrants find that because of these policies they have no true path to citizenship due to their criminalization. They are also denied the protection of the law that protects them through the plenary power doctrine and the ascending scale of rights theory. These policies have failed to deter large scale immigration across the US-Mexico border, and indeed are not designed to do so. They have succeeded in forcing undocumented laborers into very weak negotiating positions that have enabled the growth of a highly exploitative US labor system, while also catering to xenophobic desires to prevent Latin American culture to enter the US mainstream.

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