Illegal Entry as Crime, Deportation as Punishment: Immigration Status and the Criminal Process

44 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2011 Last revised: 4 Nov 2011

See all articles by Gabriel Jackson Chin

Gabriel Jackson Chin

University of California, Davis - School of Law

Date Written: August 19, 2011


In Padilla v. Kentucky, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Sixth Amendment required counsel to advise clients pleading guilty that conviction might result in deportation. The Court rested its decision on the idea that this information was important to the client’s decision-making process. However, the Court did not explore a stronger reason for developing a more precise understanding of a client’s immigration status: namely, the effect of that status on ordinary criminal prosecutions, such as burglary or assault. This Article proposes that under current law, immigration status can have substantial effects on the criminal prosecution and sentencing of non-citizens for ordinary non-immigration crimes.

This Article examines the position of non-citizens in the United States. For some non-citizens, particularly those without legal status, courts treat unlawful entry or removability as a quasi-crime, negatively affecting the case in ways similar to the effect of a prior criminal conviction. For other non-citizens, particularly but not exclusively those with legal status, the possibility of deportation is treated as a quasi-punishment, which sometimes mitigates other punishments or affects charging decisions if deportation or the overall package of sanctions would be too harsh. This Article proposes that it is consistent both with fairness to all individuals in the United States and with widely accepted principles of criminal justice to consider – carefully – immigration status in the criminal process.

Keywords: immigration, due process, deportation, plea, guilty plea, effective assistance of counsel, Sixth Amendment

JEL Classification: K41, K42

Suggested Citation

Chin, Gabriel Jackson, Illegal Entry as Crime, Deportation as Punishment: Immigration Status and the Criminal Process (August 19, 2011). UCLA Law Review, Vol. 58, p. 1417, 2011, UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 275, Available at SSRN:

Gabriel Jackson Chin (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis - School of Law ( email )

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