Prof. Pratheepan (Deep) Gulasekaram joined the Santa Clara Law faculty in 2007. He writes in the area of immigration law and constitutional law.
Why do you write?
For me, writing accomplishes three separate goals. First, and at the most personal level, writing helps me understand the particular development of law I’m addressing, and helps me engage with the nuances that may not be obvious from a superficial or first look at the controversy or debate. Second, and relatedly, it allows me to speak authoritatively about a subject to students, practicing lawyers, other law professors and academics, and the public at large through the media. Finally (and perhaps the most ambitious and least realized of the goals) writing (and publishing) – in some small way – allows me to try to convince lawyers, judges, policymakers, and the public to adopt a particular point of view. Given my particular normative perspective in my subject area, this worldview is one that seeks justice and equality for noncitizens, and seeks to de-emphasize the absolute power of sovereigns over borders and non-members.
Is there a scholar who most inspires you?
There are several immigration and constitutional law scholars for whom I have great respect. Within my specific field of immigration law (as it interacts with constitutional principles), Hiroshi Motomura (Professor of Law, UCLA) stands out as a scholar whose work is always innovative, original, and thought-provoking. Every one of his books and articles has inspired me to become a better researcher and writer. But certainly there are many authors whose work I admire. Some that come to mind are Jennifer Chacon (UCLA), Cristina Rodriguez (Yale), Melissa Murray (NYU), Justin Driver (Yale), as well as Colleen Chien and Michelle Oberman at SCU Law.
What do you think has been your most impactful work?
This question is difficult to answer, partly because I’m not sure what the best measure of impact might be. A few examples of some the ways my work has been used:
My early work on noncitizens and the Second Amendment is the subject area least tread by other academics, and has been cited by a few state courts, a federal district court, and several briefs from advocates in cases involving noncitizens and firearms.
Among academics, the empirical work that underlays my immigration federalism law review articles (e.g., Immigration Federalism: A Reappraisal (NYU Law Rev)), and book (The New Immigration Federalism (Cambridge 2015) is probably the most cited and used. That work showed that most state and local restrictionist (enforcement-minded) immigration laws are based on partisanship and white ethnic nationalism, and not on the purported public policy concerns created by immigration (wage effects, crime, language isolation, overcrowding, etc.).
More recently, based on my immigration federalism work, I was asked to serve as an expert in a federal district court case challenging the Ohio motor vehicle department’s policy of denying drivers licenses to the children of undocumented parents, and refugees in the United States. The challengers succeeded, and the federal court ended up enjoining the law.
Next, based on research published online for Stanford Law Review, I have consulted with immigrant advocates in California to vet the set of state laws (currently enacted) eliminating private immigrant detention facilities in the state.
Finally, my work on so-called immigrant sanctuary laws in Minnesota and Columbia Law Reviews is the research that has garnered the most media attention, and it is the work that has allowed me to discuss state and local non-cooperation laws in radio, print, and TV media.
What work are you most proud of and why?
The work I am most proud of is a piece for Northwestern Law Review (Immigration Exceptionalism, co-written with David Rubenstein) on the ways in which constitutional adjudication in immigration law exists outside the Court’s mainstream analytic frameworks. Although this piece lacks the direct impact and utility relative to other work discussed above, this article is the most conceptually ambitious and lays out a claim that distinguishes my thinking from some of the immigration scholars whom I most respect.
What’s your next project?
Last term, the Court decided Kansas v. Garcia (2020), upholding Kansas’ prosecution of noncitizens under state identity theft laws. Kansas appears to overrule – either explicitly or implicitly – important parts of Arizona v. United States (2012), the Court’s most notable immigration federalism intervention, striking down several provisions of Arizona’s notorious SB 1070. The purpose of the project is to understand the extent to which the doctrine has shifted in those eight years and between those two cases, and to ask which view of immigration federalism is more sound.