Making Immigrants into Criminals: Legal Processes of Criminalization in the Post-IIRIRA Era

A publication of the Center for Migration Studies
26 September, 2017

A very thorough and interesting historical analysis of the criminalization process in the US

Abstract: Criminalizing immigrants has underpinned US immigration policy over the last several decades. This paper examines the processes of immigrant criminalization in three contexts: 1) the legal history that has produced the current situation, 2) enforcement programs and practices at the border and interior, and 3) the consequences for immigrants and their families living in the United States. In examining such processes, this paper extends the discussion of the criminalization of immigrants beyond the existing literature, on two basic counts. First, it focuses on legislative changes that paved the way for the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) in 1996, which was a crucial year for the criminalization of immigration. Second, this paper documents how the criminalization of immigrants turns people and indeed whole communities, into law enforcement objects through specific programs and practices, and how immigrants experience this in their family, school, and work lives.

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