Author granted license

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2018




DePaul University College of Law




In a case involving whether illegal immigrants were protected under federal labor law, Judge Richard Cudahy, observed that illegal immigrants are often at the mercy of unscrupulous employers and that immigrations laws provide employers “with a powerful tool for unfair and oppressive treatment of migrant labor.” There are millions of people in the United States who are vulnerable to exploitation in the workplace due to their illegal immigration status. In 2012 and 2014, the Obama administration announced programs designed to provide limited security to some of the millions of illegal immigrants present in the United States. These programs are, in many important ways, analogous to President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which was designed to provide security and dignity to millions of enslaved people living in the United States. This essay, a memorial tribute to Judge Cudahy, is designed to explore the parallels between President Obama’s immigration reform and emancipation from slavery, including similarities in the way the opposition reacted to Lincoln’s and Obama’s actions.

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