Perpetuating the Marginalization of Latinos: A Collateral Consequence of the Incorporation of Immigration Law into the Criminal Justice System

37 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2011 Last revised: 20 May 2015

See all articles by Yolanda Vázquez

Yolanda Vázquez

University of Cincinnati - College of Law; University of Oxford - Border Criminologies

Date Written: June 1, 2011


Latinos currently represent the largest minority in the United States. In 2009, we witnessed the first Latina appointment to the United States Supreme Court. Despite these events, Latinos continue to endure racial discrimination and social marginalization in the United States. The inability of Latinos to gain political acceptance and legitimacy in the United States can be attributed to the social construct of Latinos as threats to national security and the cause of criminal activity.

Exploiting this pretense, American government, society and nationalists are able to legitimize the subordination and social marginalization of Latinos, specifically Mexicans and Central Americans, much to the detriment of the Latino community. This poisonous social construct has many manifestations – it depicts the Latino as a foreigner, a criminal, an “illegal” and it characterizes the Latino as one who comes to this country to cause social chaos by refusing to follow our country’s laws, work with authority, or enter with right. These depictions and characterizations instill fear and contempt against the Latino and motivate the creation of harsh immigration laws and enforcement measures. Ironically, these depictions and characterizations are then used as the pretext for legal actions against the Latino community. Currently, the primary vehicle for accomplishing this disguised discrimination has been the incorporation of immigration law into the criminal justice system.

Under the pretext of addressing criminal activity and national security concerns, American law-makers and society use immigration and criminal law to preserve racial inequality and perpetuate the marginalization of Latinos living in the United States. Thus far, these measures have been effective in depriving Latinos of the right to live in this country with rights equal to the majority, and denying them the freedom and privilege of living in the United States without abuse, discrimination, or fear.

This Article will discuss the use of the criminal justice system as the current primary means to stigmatize, punish and remove Latinos, the fallacy of the justifications put forth for this discrimination, and the impact of this governmental course of action on the Latino community. This Article concludes that until the Latino identity is disaggregated from the criminal and immigration contexts, discrimination against all Latinos will persist in a state-sanctioned, society approved and formidable form.

Keywords: Latino, Immigration, Criminal Law, Criminal Justice, Discrimination, Marginalization, National Security, Crimmigration, Enforcement, Secure Communities, 287(g), Operation Streamline, Inequality, Criminal Aliens

Suggested Citation

Vázquez, Yolanda, Perpetuating the Marginalization of Latinos: A Collateral Consequence of the Incorporation of Immigration Law into the Criminal Justice System (June 1, 2011). Howard Law Journal, Vol. 54, No. 3, 2011; U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 11-20; Criminal Justice, Borders and Citizenship Research Paper No. 1873517. Available at SSRN:

Yolanda Vázquez (Contact Author)

University of Cincinnati - College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210040
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0040
United States

University of Oxford - Border Criminologies ( email )

Manor Road Building
Manor Rd
Oxford, OX1 3UQ
United Kingdom

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