On Tuesday, I announced that Crimmigration Law, my first book, was just published by the American Bar Association and is now available for purchase here. Today I’m making available the book’s Introduction, a twenty-page chapter detailing what the term means and where this amalgamated area of law derives from. The Introduction also identifies the many actors involved in creating and enforcing crimmigration law—from city police forces to the U.S. Supreme Court.
As a hint to how Crimmigration Law begins, here are the first few paragraphs:
At its most basic, “crimmigration” law describes the convergence of two distinct bodies of law: criminal law and procedure with immigration law and procedure. For most of the nation’s history, these operated almost entirely free of the other. Criminal law and procedure was thought to be the province of prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys, and the state and federal judges who oversee criminal prosecutions every day. Immigration law, in contrast, was confined to immigration courts housed within the executive branch of the federal government and staffed by immigration attorneys, immigration judges, and prosecutors employed for many years by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and now the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or Department of Justice.
That division has undeniably become a historical relic. The world of criminal courthouses has collided with the world of immigration courthouses. The substantive criminal law that defines what constitutes a state or federal crime has increasingly come to turn on a person’s immigration status. Criminal procedure norms embodied in court rules and constitutional amendments have made special allowances for immigration law enforcement concerns and the citizenship status of defendants. Meanwhile, immigration law now frequently turns to a migrant’s criminal history to dictate whether imprisonment is merited while the government decides whether to mete out immigration law’s greatest sanction, deportation, and its close cousin, exclusion from the United States.
These developments are unquestionably significant to the migrants whose liberty and ability to live in the United States are at stake. But they are also immensely important to the attorneys who have taken on the weighty task of defending migrants facing criminal prosecution for an immigration-related activity or placed in “removal” proceedings, the modern technical term for what used to be called “deportation” and “exclusion” proceedings. These changes to the practice of criminal law and immigration law are just as relevant to the prosecutor whose interest is “that justice shall be done,” as the Supreme Court says is their duty. No matter the side on which an attorney falls, sound representation requires understanding the consequences at stake for the parties—the individuals that defense attorneys represent and the communities in whose name prosecutors appear before courts.
With those attorneys in mind, this book lays out crimmigration law’s contours. It tracks the legal developments that have created crimmigration law and explains the many ways in which the stark line that once appeared to keep criminal law firmly divided from immigration law has melted away. In doing so, it highlights crimmigration law’s most salient features—its ability to substantially raise the stakes of criminal prosecutions by dramatically expanding the list of crimes that can result in removal from the United States, its willingness to freely rely on crimes that apply only to migrants, and its vast dependence on detention as a means of policing immigration law.