UCLA School of Law Professor Hiroshi Motomura testified in a mostly virtual hearing on “Discrimination and Violence Against Asian Americans” that the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties held on March 18.
Motomura is the Susan Westerberg Prager Distinguished Professor of Law and faculty co-director of UCLA Law’s Center for Immigration Law and Policy. A renowned expert in immigration law and policy, he won a 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship to work on a forthcoming book titled The New Migration Law. Motomura is also a widely sought-after commentator and the author of several award-winning books, including Americans in Waiting: The Lost Story of Immigration and Citizenship in the United States (Oxford University Press, 2006) and Immigration Outside the Law (Oxford University Press, 2014).
The hearing was held amid a rise in violence against people of Asian descent in the United States and two days after six Asian women were among those killed in a series of mass shootings in Georgia. Motomura was one of 14 witnesses, including scholars, activists, and several members of the U.S. House and Senate. His testimony placed recent events in the context of history and immigration law.
“Individuals commit crimes, but they do so in a society that reflects the laws under which we live,” he said. “To see hate crimes as isolated is to close our eyes to the role of law in shaping attitudes, especially about who is worthy of respect, and who is not. My focus today is on the immigration laws of the United States, and especially on how these laws have laid the foundation for hate crimes against Asian Americans in the past and in the present, but I hope not in the future.”
Motomura noted that his family came from Japan decades ago, during a period when immigration from Asia was severely restricted.
“Immigration laws tell some U.S. citizens that they are still foreigners — that they cannot fully partake of American life,” he said. “If they trace their family origins to disfavored parts of the world, or if they follow a disfavored faith, then the message is that their citizenship isn’t as worthy of respect as the citizenship of other Americans. Their citizenship is devalued. In these ways, immigration laws enable discrimination that is based on race, often against U.S. citizens.”
Motomura earned his B.A. from Yale University and his J.D. from UC Berkeley School of Law. In 2007, he joined the faculty of UCLA Law. Among other courses, he teaches Immigration Law, Immigrants’ Rights, and the innovative Immigrants’ Rights Policy Clinic, in which students collaborate with community activists and organizations and local officials on key issues impacting immigrants in Southern California and across the country.