Since the late 1980s, immigrants convicted of certain criminal offenses have been subject to mandatory detention during their deportation proceedings. Due to court backlog and complicated cases, noncitizens mandatorily detained in this way can be held for years at a time, without any legal right to a bail hearing. While political rhetoric and policy aims of the past three decades have painted so-called “criminal aliens” as a highly dangerous group from whom the American public needs protecting, the criminal convictions that invoke mandatory detention and likely deportation are actually quite diverse, in large part due to the expansion of the “aggravated felony” ground of deportation to include a wide variety of less serious crimes. Drawing from 40 interviews with lawyers and other legal actors in New York City's detained immigration court from 2017 to 2018, this article explores the effects of aggravated felony–based mandatory detention. I argue that in doubly punishing immigrants who have already served time for criminal convictions, the immigration system funnels criminalized noncitizens—particularly those from poor Black and Latinx communities—toward deportation, perpetuating inequality and upholding existing racial hierarchies.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science