By Allison Crennen-Dunlap
“The Age of Nations has passed. Now, unless we wish to perish we must shake off our old prejudices and build the earth.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Human Energy 37 (1969).
Writing in 1969, dissident Jesuit priest and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin envisioned a radical future toward which humanity was building—a future beyond nations and divisions in which all human beings could share as equals in their common dignity. Sadly, humanity has not lived up to Teilhard’s vision, beautiful as it was. In Race, Criminal Justice, and Migration Control (2017), criminologists and legal scholars from around the globe remind us that the age of nations is still very much alive. Not only is it alive, but it is supported by a complex, international regime of migration controls and criminal justice systems working to exclude those deemed undeserving of membership in the polity. That exclusion, the contributors show, is not random. Rather, it must be understood in light of race and its construction. Edited by professors of law and criminology, Race, Criminal Justice, and Migration Control “seeks to reorient the burgeoning field of literature on migration control in criminology and criminal law around issues of race” (p. 4). Together, the contributors do much toward achieving this goal as they explore, test, and analyze the many ways in which racism drives migration control and migration controls, tied to criminal justice systems, perpetuate racial subordination.
Several chapters remind us of the ways in which migration has been criminalized: in the United States, migrants can be criminally prosecuted for illegal entry, illegal reentry, false claim to citizenship, and smuggling; in Saudi Arabia, migrant domestic workers who leave their employers are criminal absconders, sought by police, imprisoned, and deported; in the United Kingdom, immigration officials hold criminal powers while London police refer all “suspected foreign nationals” to immigration authorities (p. 112); and governments throughout the world imprison migrants to effect their removals. As criminal law and immigration enforcement become increasingly entangled, racist criminal justice practices amplify the racist results of migration policies. Thus, as police in Australia increase surveillance of “Middle Eastern” neighborhoods or government actors in the U.S. disproportionately monitor, arrest, prosecute, and convict people racialized as black or brown, the vast majority of those caught up in “the first step in the deportation pipeline” are people of color (p. 232).
Migration controls, assisted by criminal justice systems, thus maintain racial subordination: people of color are disproportionately imprisoned and banished, and people of color disproportionately “live under the spectre of enforcement” (p. 242). Their bodies, trapped behind razor wire and left to sleep on concrete floors, produce profit for private prison corporations and local governments. Theirs are the families wrenched apart and the children who suffer either de facto deportation or abandonment as a result of deportation. Although migrants racialized as white can also suffer these consequences, popular narratives that imagine people of color as criminal and migrants as dangerous racialized others cause governments to target policing and immigration enforcement efforts at communities of color. As such, white migrants often evade immigration enforcement efforts while people of color endure the brunt of the surveillance, imprisonment, and deportation practices that characterize migration control.
Additionally, because migrants are often depicted as criminal and racialized as black or brown, people of color, regardless of immigration status, are subject to heightened state surveillance. When the United Kingdom sets as its goal for immigration policing to create a “really hostile environment for illegal migrants,” that hostility affects people of color in general, regardless of their immigration status (p. 67). This spring, for example, news reports across Europe described government efforts to round-up and deport British citizens born in Caribbean countries, an embarrassment which the home secretary eventually described as “appalling.” The convergence of migration control and criminal justice thus ensures that black citizens of the United Kingdom, Latinx citizens of the United States, Filipino citizens of Australia, and countless other people of color endure racial profiling, arrests, investigations into their citizenship status, and sometimes detention and deportation to countries of which they are not citizens (p. 94, 118, 161).
Although this is not the first work of scholarship to examine crimmigration’s racialized causes and consequences, the contributors do much to investigate and critique the role that racism plays in driving crimmigration as well as the extent and variability of the suffering caused by racialized migration control practices. As this volume demonstrates, this phenomenon is pervasive.
Indeed, the contributors show that racialized immigration enforcement permeates spaces far beyond literal borders. Immigration enforcement efforts in the United Kingdom, for instance, show up on roving vans urging noncitizens to “Go Home,” in newspapers and magazines, and on signs in shop windows—all of which can be strategically deployed in neighborhoods based on the perceived race of residents (p. 69). Similarly, for female Filipino domestic workers, migration control begins in the doctor’s office, where the results of HIV and pregnancy tests determine whether they can migrate because those results determine to what degree they embody the racialized, gendered stereotype of the caring, docile, and sexless domestic worker (pp. 16-17, 25). And, increasingly, governments are outsourcing immigration policing to stop migrants before they get anywhere near a border, with various destination countries turning to the police and national security forces of countries of transit and origin to prevent migrants—frequently those imagined as male, dark-skinned criminals or terrorists—from reaching their destinations (pp. 74, 80-85). In short, racialized migration control is not neatly delimited to borders, police stations, and prisons, but extends to restaurants, hospitals, universities, and the other mundane spaces each of us encounters daily.
This volume also begins to examine the geographic scope of racialized immigration enforcement, sharing research on Australia, Honduras, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the states of the Western Balkans. This work focuses primarily, however, on the United States and the United Kingdom and thus only scratches the surface when it comes to understanding the global reach of racialized migration control. In 2017, there were an estimated 80 million international migrants in Asia, 78 million in Europe, 58 million in North America, 25 million in Africa, 10 million in Latin American and the Caribbean, and 8 million in Oceania. Moreover, more migrants are moving between Global South countries than are transiting from the Global South to the Global North. Understanding racialized migration control, then, requires further research not only on wealthy destination countries but also on countries of origin and medium-wealth countries that both send and receive migrants. As contributor Sandja Milivojević explains, to fully unpack the scope of crimmigration’s power to sustain racialized hierarchies, scholars from the Global South will need more material support (p. 88).
Although the authors do much to probe, deconstruct, and analyze the problems arising at the nexus of migration control, criminal justice, and race, their solutions to those problems are tentative. Several contributors urge scholars troubled by racialized immigration enforcement to decolonize their own practices. For instance, legal scholar Eddie Bruce-Jones recommends that change begin in the classroom. Specifically, he urges teachers of refugee law to explore with their students the totality of violence faced by refugees, including that which occurs in countries of transit and destination; the broader historical context that produced much of that violence; refugee law’s propensity to preserve colonial structures; and the confines of a narrow legal framework that leaves so many in need with no hope for migration (pp. 189-90).
Additionally, migration researcher Gabriella E. Sanchez offers an excellent example of the way scholars might self-reflectively fashion their work to challenge racialized migration controls. In her chapter, “Portrait of a Human Smuggler,” Sanchez presents her findings from interviews with women who engaged in smuggling or were smuggled over the México-U.S. border. In focusing on the experiences of female smugglers, Sanchez challenges the racialized, gendered narrative that smugglers are violent, sexually dangerous men, racialized as Mexican, and irrevocably tied to organized crime (pp. 29-31). This narrative, supported by researchers, media outlets, and the state, draws on existing stereotypes of migrants as criminal, Latino, and male. In turn, the “dangerous Latino smuggler” stereotype supports the policing, exclusion, and deportation of Latino men and conceals the state’s role in producing the conditions that create clandestine border crossings and their related dangers. Far from being dangerous criminals seeking to exploit, murder, and rape those whom they smuggle, the women Sanchez spoke with are ordinary women seeking to make a living, reunite with their families, or assist migrants in need of food and water. Sanchez’ work thus reminds us that scholars seeking to challenge racialized migration control must critically examine the narratives that support state violence and racial subordination, particularly when those narratives invade their own work.
Acknowledging that scholarship at the intersection of race, migration control, and criminal justice is still developing, this volume also calls for further “comparative, empirical” work (p. 248). As legal scholar Emma Kaufman explains, such research is important because “ethnographic studies of race give meaning to the claim that border control is racialized” and “remind us just how local and unstable racism is” (p. 248). Such research is also urgently needed, given that hundreds of millions of people, mostly from the Global South, are on the move. In response, governments have proven quite adept at using migration control to produce and continue racial subordination regardless of whether their practices are explicit (as with anti-Chinese exclusions in the U.S. during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries) or purportedly race-neutral. The study of crimmigration and race must keep up with changing state practices.
But, as the editors of this volume explain, further research alone is not sufficient to combat a phenomenon that might be best understood as global apartheid. Rather, those disturbed by racialized immigration enforcement must not only seek to understand this phenomenon but to do so with a “commitment to think otherwise” (p. 8). Most of the contributors to this volume agree that they seek to “challenge” the racial subordination produced by increasingly inseparable migration control and criminal justice systems. What it means to “challenge” such subordination, however, could differ quite radically from one thinker to the next. For instance, prison inspector Hindpal Singh Bhui hopes to implement anti-discrimination policies in prisons to “promot[e] equality and good communication between staff and Muslim prisoners” (p. 209), while criminologists Ben Bowling and Sophie Westenra would combat global apartheid itself and the restrictions on fundamental rights it creates (p. 75).
Those engaged in this work must ask themselves what so disturbs them about the confluence of migration control, criminal justice, and racial subordination. Are we bothered that exclusionary practices are based on and produce race? Or are we troubled by exclusionary practices in general, whether or not they are racialized and/or gendered? Would we be satisfied with an immigration prison that was not only race-neutral on paper, but in practice? With a border that excluded all races equally, but turned instead on poverty or some other undesirable marker? Are we disturbed by the “uneven enforcement of immigration laws” or their enforcement in general (p. 246)? Scholars will have to grapple with these and other difficult questions as they answer the editors’ call to not only gather more evidence on the convergence of migration control, criminal justice, and race, but to “think otherwise.”
Fifty years ago, Teilhard asked us to set aside our ancient prejudices and build the earth. Race, Criminal Justice, and Migration Control demonstrates that such a task, if possible, will be far from easy. Those who seek to build on the urgently needed work that Race, Criminal Justice, and Migration Control has begun have their work cut out for them. As they embark on that task, they must decide just what sort of earth it is that they hope to build.
Allison Crennen-Dunlap is a Chancellor Scholar and J.D. candidate at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, where she focuses on immigration law. Among other endeavors, Allison has completed legal internships with the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network and the Justice and Mercy Legal Aid Clinic. She earned her M.A. at the Pennsylvania State University, where she was a McCourtney Distinguished Graduate Fellow, and graduated with her B.A. from Georgetown University.