In the context of immigration, words matter. The increasingly used term “criminal alien” is not only used as an adjective to define a noncitizen who has committed a crime, but it also acts as a descrip- tion of his or her personhood. The use of the term “illegals,” which is the shortened version of “illegal alien,” is pervasive in the media as well as policy debate. In Part I, this paper discusses the evolution of the immigration system in the United States from a discretionary and humanitarian system to a criminalized process. In Part II, this paper examines the convergence of the criminal and immigration systems, as well as the dehumanization of its participants. In Part III, this pa- per addresses the impact of immigration status and consequences in the practice of criminal defense following the landmark decision, Pa- dilla v. Kentucky.1 Additionally, the author draws on her experience as a public defender and immigration resource attorney in Virginia to discuss the impact of “crimmigration” policies. Ultimately, this article suggests replacing inaccurate and inflammatory identifiers with precise and non-pejorative language in both policy and public discourse as a first step away from crimmigration. This article utiliz- es and encourages use of the term “noncitizen” to describe any per- son in the U.S. without citizenship, with more status-specific terms when relevant.
Ashley R. Shapiro,
The Criminalization of the Immigration System: the Dehumanizing Impact of Calling a Person "Illegal",
Rich. Pub. Int. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.richmond.edu/pilr/vol21/iss2/10