Beyond Severity: A New View Of Crimmigration

47 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2018

See all articles by Rachel E. Rosenbloom

Rachel E. Rosenbloom

Northeastern University - School of Law

Date Written: November 14, 2018


While the Trump Administration’s harsh crackdown on immigrants builds on an enforcement infrastructure inherited from previous administrations, this Article cautions against characterizing it as merely an escalation of “crimmigration”—the merging of criminal and immigration law evident in recent decades. I argue instead that key contrasts between current policies and the previous era provide an opportunity to understand the crimmigration era in a whole new way. Crimmigration scholars have thoroughly explored the increasingly harsh nature of immigration enforcement as it has developed over the past few decades. However, crimmigration scholarship, framed exclusively as a critique of severity, has neglected to account for significant aspects of the (pre-Trump) crimmigration era that fell outside the severity paradigm. In particular, crimmigration scholars have largely overlooked the advent of new visas and forms of discretionary relief that Congress created between 1990 and 2000 for noncitizens who are victims of domestic violence, trafficking, and other crimes. While both increased enforcement and crime-based relief have been the subject of significant analysis, this Article is the first to bridge the two subjects, proposing a new way to understand the relationship between these two key aspects of immigration law as it has developed since the 1980s: the “bad news” narrative of ramped-up enforcement and the “good news” narrative of expanded relief. Utilizing frameworks drawn from both feminist theory and criminology, this Article argues that the expansion of relief was never the counterweight to crimmigration’s harsh enforcement policies that it may have seemed but rather an integral component of crimmigration itself, and that crimmigration is best understood not simply as a transition to severity but as a complex phenomenon that produced new categories of favored immigrants at the same time that it expanded the categories of immigrants subject to detention, deportation, and other sanctions. This insight necessitates a new understanding not only of crimmigration but of the advocacy strategies that have taken place in its shadow.

Keywords: crimmigration, immigration law

Suggested Citation

Rosenbloom, Rachel E., Beyond Severity: A New View Of Crimmigration (November 14, 2018). Lewis & Clark Law Review, Vol. 22, No. 3, 2018, Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. 338-2018, Available at SSRN:

Rachel E. Rosenbloom (Contact Author)

Northeastern University - School of Law ( email )

416 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States
617-373-3066 (Phone)


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