IS IMMIGRATION BEING OVERCRMINIALIZED IN THE UNITED STATES?

Three main issues are considered when looking into the topic of immigration that have changed over the last fifteen years. First is that enforcement was first set out to be a strictly federal duty. In 1982 Texas tried to gain power in terms of enforcing immigration with a statute which would deny free and public education to illegal immigrants. The law was held to be unconstitutional in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, because discrimination on the basis of immigration status did not further a substantial state interest. Another case that came up recently was with an Arizona state legislation aimed to control migration with S.B. 1070.During the court proceedings the Supreme Court decided on 2012 in favor of the federal government insuring them the duty of protecting its borders in Arizona.

Fifteen years ago the federal government was unable to enforce its standing immigration laws. In many cases it was so because the labor industry controlled the flow of immigration, therefore those who primarily held interest did not pursue the apprehension and prosecution of illegal immigrants. There has been significant rise of enforcement efforts which ultimately consist of giving the U.S. Customs and Border Protection $12.9 billion budget, and over 63,560 employees. Another part to enforcement along the border was the Secure Fence Act of 2006 which built a 700 miles wall which would ultimately protect the United States from drug trafficking, terrorist attacks as well as illegal immigration.

In the past local and state municipalities had a small role in regulation and had nothing to do in terms of enforcing and capture of illegal immigrants. In the past years there has been rise in local and state level enforcement. With Secure Communities Program, the federal government has mandated local and state participation in enforcement. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is in the forefront of enforcing immigration nationwide.

Overcriminalization is considered when the seriousness of the crime is met with a punishment considered too excessive. Also when too many activities are defined as one crime. Unexamined discretion and misallocated resources also pertain to overcriminalization.

Monetary costs is one of the ways the criminal system has measured out its resources in order to punish migrants which is unproportional to the crime, and is considered as overcriminalization. Chacόnclaims that the spending on criminal investigations in skewed towards the prosecution of illegal immigrants,while they should be allocated towards violent and dangerous crimes.

Racial profiling is another reason Chacόn has categorized the issue of immigration as being over-criminalized. The reason being that law enforcement has been sanctioned to rely on the use of appearance as a standard for targeting illegal immigrants. Section 2 of S.B. 1070 was an instance in which law enforcement was allowed to do so. Chacόnclaims that there are already available statistics that show an immense increase of low-level crimes committed by Latinos in an attempt to apprehend illegal immigrants.

Jennifer M Chacón. OVERCRIMINALIZING IMMIGRATION. Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology.2012;102:613

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3 Responses to IS IMMIGRATION BEING OVERCRMINIALIZED IN THE UNITED STATES?

  1. Tracy Encizo says:

    I completely agree with the thesis of this post. Immigration, in the hands of the conservative right-wingers has become a way to shift the discourse onto scapegoats and rile up Americans who feel disenfranchised with their lives. Immigrants have always contributed to the economic strength and growth of this country and we’re all sons and daughters of immigrants. The real criminals are the Wall Street kings, bankers, corporate raiders, and corrupt politicians.

  2. ajgoldsmith says:

    I believe that when we hide behind the vale of being a “nation of laws,” great harm can be done to fellow human beings. Immigration is a complicated issue that should not have its discourse dominated with calls of patriotism justifying the continuation of the suffering others. Unfortunately, those in power have convinced us that the other, in this case being from a different nation-state, is alien. This has shaped our discourse whether we are for amnesty or not. The use of phrases like “we should let them in” illustrate that though some may welcome those who are currently crossing the political border of the US, they are still a them instead of always already one of us. Furthermore, instead of looking towards those who have the least among us as the root of our problems, we should look up towards those who hold the power and benefit from the schema of the status-quo if we want to find the source of our woes.

  3. Interesting post, I enjoy following this particular subject. Immigration is a touchy topic to many in the state of Arizona. AS citizens of a border town we develop a better understanding since it affects us. We put immigration on the forefront of our minds when electing leaders, creating legislation, or volunteering to aid those that support our beliefs. With that being said, why has nothing been done? Are organizations not developing enough awareness to make a change? Do people fight strongly against this enough to have nothing done?
    I believe that the United States citizens do not seem to value this topic. Americans tend to look at themselves and what only concerns them. What you discussed in this post of the obvious facts that could persuade the reader to notice there is a problem. Unfortunately, many Americans do not share the passion that you and I share. Based off of statistics on the Pew research center, Americans are split (http://www.people-press.org/2014/12/11/immigration-action-gets-mixed-response-but-legal-pathway-still-popular/). Through personal experiences and research on the topic, I believe that the Federal government may not be the answer since politicians and Americans are divided on the issue. I urge you to create or join movements that could change legislation in Arizona. I support the idea of immigration reform and that more should be done.

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