Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2008


In Copyright


This paper situates the current “crisis” surrounding the arrival and continued presence of undocumented immigrants in the United States within penological trends that have taken root in American law over the past thirty years. It positions the shift from more benevolent to the increasingly harsh legal treatment of undocumented immigrants as the continuation of a succession of legal reforms criminalizing immigrants, and governing immigration through crime. By charting the increasing salience of crime in public perceptions of undocumented immigrants, and comparing the immediately preceding criminal stigmatization of so-called “criminal aliens”, this paper exposes current severity toward undocumented immigrants as consistent with the post-industrial, post-New Deal approach to viewing problems of social regulation as problems of crime control. It goes on to critiques that approach as exacerbating the same problems for which undocumented immigrants are being blamed.

Publication Title

Southern Methodist University Law Review

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