A Legacy of Injustice: The U.S. Criminalization of Migration.
National Immigrant Justice Center.
Published: July 2020
National Immigrant Justice Center
224 S. Michigan Avenue Suite 600
Chicago, IL 60604
Tel: (312) 660-1370
This report explains through a series of executive orders and actions starting in January 2017, the United States government has deepened its commitment to prosecuting people for entering or reentering the United States without authorization. Such prosecutions increased by nearly 50% from fiscal years 2017 to 2019, contributing to approximately 10% of the federal prison population on any given day and making up around 60% of all criminal prosecutions in federal courts. The report explores how the U.S. government has used entry and reentry prosecutions to violate the rights of people seeking asylum or who hope to return to their spouses or children. Findings from research are shared that indicate such prosecutions destabilize and permanently separate families, violate international and domestic asylum laws and basic due process protections provided to individuals facing criminal charges, and perpetuate dehumanizing and racist treatment of migrants. Throughout the report, stories are shared of individuals whose fundamental rights have been abused as a result of these prosecutions. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on those who are being prosecuted for migration-related offenses is also explored, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s decision to temporarily stay most unauthorized entry court hearings which has resulted in people waiting for their hearings in increasingly deadly jails and detention centers where the risk of infection is high. The report concludes with recommendations for executive and legislative changes to decriminalize unauthorized migration. It is recommended the U.S. Congress: repeal laws used to prosecute entry and reentry offenses, defund the administration’s programs that have fueled migration-related prosecutions, end mass prosecutions and prosecutions of asylum seekers, ban contracting with for-profit prisons to detain people facing migration-related prosecutions, and demand the release of people trapped in detention during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional recommendations are made for federal agencies. 173 references.
children of immigrants; deportation; statistics; data analysis; separation; parent child relationships; COVID-19; guidelines; US IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE; UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS