Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2104285
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Undocumented immigrants in financial distress are barred from seeking many forms of assistance. Bankruptcy is one tool that is, in theory, available to undoc- umented debtors because legal status is not a prerequisite to bankruptcy relief. This Article explores undocumented debtors’ interactions with the bankruptcy system.Undocumented debtors face both formal and informal barriers to bankruptcy fil- ing, including fear of deportation, misinformation, and the legal requirement that the debtor produce financial records. It is both possible and desirable to ease many of these barriers. Bankruptcy relief facilitates the rehabilitation of debtors in finan- cial distress, contributes to the economic well-being of the debtor’s family and community, and provides an orderly, equitable resolution of the debtor’s financial affairs. These values apply with no less force when the debtor is undocumented.
The recent recession has increased anti-immigrant sentiment and has inspired increasingly harsh measures directed at “illegalimmigrants,” who are accused of “taking jobs” from authorized res-idents.
For example, Arizona attracted national attention with itsnew law that makes it a state crime to be in the United States ille-gally and requires local law enforcement to arrest individualssuspected of being in the country illegally.
Georgia, Alabama, In-diana, and South Carolina recently adopted similar measures.
Additionally, some anti-immigrant activists have proposed new
Assistant Professor, Rutgers University School of Law—Newark. J.D., Harvard Law School,
magna cum laude
. The author wishes to thank Carlos Ball, Stephanie Ben-Ishai, Ed- ward Janger, Robert Lawless, Stephen Lubben, Nathalie Martin, Katherine Porter, DavidThronson, Anjum Gupta, Adi Habbu, Carissa Hessick, Michael Simcovic, and my researchassistants Samuel Davenport and Ivan Mendizabal. All errors are mine.1. For examples of such measures see Hiroshi Motomura,
Immigration Outside the Law
Colum. L. Rev
. 2037, 2091–92 (2008) (discussing proposed legislation to eliminatebirthright citizenship); Miriam Jordan,
Tough Law Attracts Legal Challenges
Wall St. J.
, Apr.30, 2010, at A3; Jonathan Weisman & Stephanie Simon,
The Arizona Immigration Law: Ruling is New Hot-Button Issue in Election Year
Wall St. J.
, July 29, 2010, at A6. For the view that im-migrants are “taking jobs from ‘Americans,’”
, Gary Martin,
Napolitano, GOP House Members Spar
, Oct. 27, 2011, at A11 (stating that Lamar Smith accused “ille-gal immigrants” of taking jobs from “unemployed American worker[s]”); Jeremy Redom,
Panel Wraps Up Immigration Bill Hearings
Atlanta J. Const.
, Feb. 12, 2011, at 6B (statingthat proponents of Georgia bill HB 87 targeting illegal immigration argue undocumentedimmigrants are “taking jobs from state residents”).2. For a thorough summary of the law and its implications, see Gabriel J. Chin, Caris-sa Byrne Hessick, Toni Massaro & Marc L. Miller,
A Legal Labyrinth: Issues Raised by Arizona Senate Bill 1070
Geo. Immigr. L.J
. 47 (2010).
Justice Targets Laws Like Arizona’s
, Sept. 30, 2011, at A01.