Understanding the Meaning and Impacts of Crimmigration
“Crimmigration” is a term that combines “criminal” and “immigration.” Legal scholar Juliet Stumpf devised this name in his 2006 article, “The Crimmigration Crisis: Immigrants, Crime, and Sovereign Power,” which discusses the fusion of criminal and immigration law. Generally, immigration matters fall under federal law, while most criminal issues are primarily prosecuted in state courts unless they are federal crimes.
However, over the past decade, we have seen an alliance between criminal and immigration law, suggesting the criminalization of immigration is becoming a common practice. Immigration law cannot “live” without the interference of criminal law because immigrants are required to comply with the law or risk deportation. Thus, if an immigrant commits a crime, their immigration status is jeopardized. Even if they adhere to the law, law enforcement and government officials can find ways to criminalize innocent immigrants.
Examples of Crimmigration
Crimmigration is all around us. Since 2016 especially, crimmigration has become more widespread, putting immigrants in a vulnerable position of facing deportation. For context, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested about 143,000 aliens and removed more than 167,000 in 2019. Immigrants who have a visa, non-immigrant visa or green card, and/or are in the process of seeking citizenship through naturalization must be extremely cautious. Breaking the law in any way can impact their immigrant status, thus demonstrating the prevalence of crimmigration in America.
For example, in January 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order 13768, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States which established immigration enforcement and removal policies. About one month later, the Department of Homeland Security released a memorandum implementing Enforcement of the Immigration Laws to Serve the National Interest, which provided further clarity on how to execute the policies outlined in the preceding Executive Order.
According to the Fiscal Year 2018 ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Report, “Together, the EO and implementation memorandum expanded ICE’s enforcement focus to include removable aliens who[:]
(1) have been convicted of any criminal offense;
(2) have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;
(3) have committed acts which constitute a chargeable criminal offense;
(4) have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter before a governmental agency;
(5) have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;
(6) are subject to a final order of removal but have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States; or
(7) in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.”
Also noteworthy is the United States Sentencing Commission reported that “Immigration cases accounted for the largest single group of offenses in fiscal year 2019, comprising 38.4 percent of all reported cases. Cases involving drugs, firearms, and fraud were the next most common types of offenses after immigration cases. Together these four types of offenses accounted for 84.4 percent of all cases reported to the Commission in fiscal year 2019.”
In other words, most arrests were immigration-related, while drugs, firearms and fraud followed. Does this mean immigrants are committing more crimes, or law enforcement officials are watching them more vigilantly? This is a widely debated topic throughout the US and across the globe.
Despite varying opinions, one thing is for certain: Crimmigration is at the root of these matters.
The immigration attorneys at Appel & Morse are committed to ensuring your legal rights are protected as you apply for an immigrant visa, non-immigrant visa or naturalization. Further, we can thoroughly explain the implications of your legal decisions to help prevent you from suffering deportation or other trouble with the law. It’s clear that law enforcement and government officials are doing their best to uphold the President’s Executive Order, meaning now more than ever, you need our defense.