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Removing the “criminal” from “immigration”

On Behalf of | Dec 26, 2022 | Crimmigration

Part of everyday life in New Jersey involves hearing about the continual issue of immigration crimes. It’s hard not to tune it out after a while when it’s such a strongly established norm. And if it’s not something impacting you or your family directly, it becomes all too easy to forget the issue entirely.

A system that’s racially targeted

Immigration policy in the United States makes it more likely for Central and Latin Americans to be arrested, detained or deported for lacking complete documentation, but that’s not always the way it was. While criminalized immigration has become normalized over the past two decades, it’s still a major outlier in America’s history. Standard immigration practice didn’t previously include criminalizing the act of crossing the border between the U.S. and Mexico. That all changed in the ’90s.

This is an issue fraught with contentious racial politics, and it doesn’t help that this crimmigration trend started to set in at about the same time that the U.S. government was cracking down on immigration from Mexico. The ways for a Mexican to legally immigrate grew narrower and narrower, leaving few legal choices on the table.

A vicious cycle

There are analysts who believe this is not just happenstance but rather a matter of cause and effect. Approaching and examining the issue from a racial perspective has been highly illuminating for these experts.

It’s not just Mexicans in violation of immigration policy, after all. There are numerous Canadians, Australians and Western Europeans, for instance, who remain in the U.S. for longer than their visa allows. But those certainly aren’t the people who ICE is targeting.

One look at ICE’s statistics makes it plainly obvious: Immigrants from Central and Latin America are the ones bearing the brunt of these arrests, deportations and detainments. The trend of merging criminal law with immigration law may be seen as either a major cause of this problem or the symptom of a broken and failing system. And ultimately, those who have to pay the price are the ones trying to make it into the United States.