Prof. Péter Szigeti authors article on the role of comparative law methods in immigration law

The new publication appears in the International Journal of Constitutional Law

Lauren Bannon - 30 March 2022

University of Alberta Faculty of Law Assistant Professor Péter Szigeti has authored a new article on comparative immigration law.

“Comparative law at the heart of immigration law: Criminal inadmissibility and conjugal immigration in Canada and the United States” has been published in the International Journal of Constitutional Law.

Comparative law is the study of differences and similarities between the laws of different countries. It is most often used in constitutional law and private law. However, Szigeti argues that comparative law methods are imperative for immigration law.

“In a deep and longstanding sense, immigration law is comparative and always has been comparative,” said Szigeti. “Comparisons are of course crucial for would-be immigrants who are looking for a suitable country to immigrate to. But comparative law methodology is just as important to immigration officers and judges who have to assess an immigrant’s eligibility.”

Szigeti states that immigration law is a comparative legal practice in three key aspects: comparing a would-be immigrant’s criminal history to the destination state’s criminal laws; comparing an immigrant’s diplomas and education to the destination state’s educational system; and comparing immigrants’ marriages and intimate relationships to domestic family law regimes.

The article also reviews the history of comparative legal methods used to assess immigrants’ admissibility in North America since 1880.

“The methods range from plain translations to complex systemic comparison,” wrote Szigeti.

“It is generally true that the more fine-grained the comparison, the easier it is to find differences; and conversely, broad-brush comparisons usually return some evidence of similarity. The choice of method… is thus reflective of a general will (or lack thereof) to find larger or smaller numbers of immigrants acceptable.”

By offering insight into how methods of comparison vary in complexity at different points in time, Szigeti sheds light on what immigration anxieties have existed throughout each era over the last 140 years.