Criminal Records and Immigration: Comparing the United States and the European Union

41 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2015 Last revised: 17 Jan 2016

Dimitra Blitsa

Greek National School of Judges

Lauryn P. Gouldin

Syracuse University College of Law

James Jacobs

New York University School of Law

Elena Larrauri

Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Department of Law

Date Written: December 8, 2015

Abstract

As the revolution in information technology has made individual criminal history records more comprehensive, efficient and retrievable, an individual’s criminal history has become increasingly significant, triggering a broad and severe range of collateral consequences. There is no better example of this phenomenon than immigration law and policy, where developments in data storage and retrieval converge with opposition to immigration, especially to immigrants who bear a criminal stigma.

In debates in the United States over immigration reforms, even those politicians and legislators who advocate more liberal immigration policies generally concede the desirability of excluding those with serious criminal records from eligibility for new benefits or status. In the European Union, by contrast, although a criminal record may impact an individual’s ability to travel to or reside in a European Union country, it is not as readily dispositive of immigration outcomes.

As immigration policy evolves on both sides of the Atlantic, a key question for policymakers is about whether we screen for criminal records in order to protect the public safety or as a way to mark those with criminal records as somehow less deserving of immigration rights and benefits. This article details and compares the ways that the United States and the European Union use criminal records (including both conviction records and, in the U.S., some arrest records) for immigration purposes. The article also outlines guidance for policymakers in both jurisdictions.

Suggested Citation

Blitsa, Dimitra and Gouldin, Lauryn P. and Jacobs, James and Larrauri, Elena, Criminal Records and Immigration: Comparing the United States and the European Union (December 8, 2015). Fordham International Law Journal, Forthcoming; NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 15-59. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2700688

Dimitra Blitsa

Greek National School of Judges ( email )

Thessaloniki, 55102
Greece

Lauryn P. Gouldin

Syracuse University College of Law ( email )

Syracuse, NY 13244-1030
United States

HOME PAGE: http://law.syr.edu/profile/lauryn-gouldin1

James B. Jacobs (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

Elena Larrauri

Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Department of Law ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas 25-27
Barcelona, 08005
Spain

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