I didn’t invent the term “crimmigration.” That credit goes to Professor Juliet Stumpf of Lewis & Clark University. Her groundbreaking article The Crimmigration Crisis, published in the American University Law Review, put a name to the merging of criminal and immigration norms that have become so prominent in the decade since then. To call Stumpf prescient would be an understatement.
When The Crimmigration Crisis appeared in 2006, I was a new attorney practicing in the South Texas city in which I was born and raised, McAllen. Only a handful of miles from the border, McAllen and the rest of the Río Grande Valley have witnessed much of crimmigration law’s creation and expansion. In the mid-1980s Central American migrants fleeing war-torn countries arrived in the region in large numbers and the INS responded with a show of force so intense that then-U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen complained to the Attorney General that the INS’s policy threatened to “turn South Texas into a massive detention camp.” Robert S. Kahn, Other People’s Blood 206 (1996). Framing migration as a danger and responding with strong-armed security measures has become a constant refrain of U.S. policy and a central feature of crimmigration law.
More recently in the Río Grande Valley ICE used a secure detention facility run by a private prison corporation to house civil immigration detainees—that is, people waiting to learn whether they will be allowed to remain in the United States. At the time, the facility was called the Willacy County Processing Center. After ICE pulled out of that contract, the Federal Bureau of Prisons hired the same company to use the same facility to house migrants convicted of entering the United States without the federal government’s authorization—either a federal misdemeanor or a federal felony. At this time, the facility was called the Willacy County Correctional Center.
The same secure facility was used to confine people who engaged in the same activity, only once under civil powers and in another instance under criminal powers. This melding of boundaries emblematizes crimmigration law.
Witnessing these and related developments spurred my interest in crimmigration law. Stumpf gave that interest a name. Last month I gave that interest its first systematic doctrinal mapping.
My book Crimmigration Law addresses the legal doctrine that constitutes this emerging body of law in the United States and explains how we arrived at this point. This week I will be traveling to San Antonio and Austin to talk about the book with students, attorneys, and advocates. I’ll be at St. Mary’s Law School in San Antonio on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. (Law School Building Atrium). On Friday, I’ll speak at 8:00 a.m. at an event organized by the Austin section of the American Immigration Lawyers Association at 1707 E. 6th Street (Tamale House East). Later I’ll speak at 10:30 a.m. at the University of Texas Law School (Goodwin Room, CCJ 1.312). I hope to see many of you there.