How immigration policy became ‘crimmigration’ — and the racial politics behind it


Americans have grown accustomed to reading about arrests, detentions and deportations of undocumented people — and these stories dominate any discussion of U.S. immigration policy, from the issue of border security to immigration reform.

Yet, Americans may be surprised to find this wasn’t always the case: The criminalization of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, for example, and immigration detention were the exception rather than the norm until the 1990s, and in fact is at odds with much of the nation’s history, according César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, an Ohio State University law professor and the author of a new book, “Crimmigration Law.”

Basically, immigration law and criminal law have merged, he says, often to the detriment of the rights of those seeking to migrate to the U.S. This development has a racial component, according to García Hernández.

“It is not a coincidence that immigration law grew more criminalized just as the…

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