Crimmigration and the Legitimacy Of Immigration Law

Crimmigration law—the intersection of immigration and criminal law—with its emphasis on immigration enforcement, has been central in discussions over political compromise on immigration reform. Yet crimmigration law’s singular approach to interior immigration and criminal law enforcement threatens to undermine public faith in the legitimacy of immigration law.

This Article explores the significance of crimmigration for the procedural legitimacy of immigration law. Seminal scholars of psychological jurisprudence have concluded that perceptions about procedural justice—whether the law and legal authorities treat people fairly—are often more important than a favorable outcome, such as winning a case or avoiding arrest. Crimmigration introduces procedural deficiencies into immigration law that may undermine people’s perceptions of its legitimacy. These deficiencies, seen through the lens of psychological jurisprudence, mean that individuals and institutions are less likely to trust immigration law and cooperate with immigration authorities.

This Article applies specific criteria that jurisprudential psychologists have shown influence perceptions about justice. It predicts that the core procedural deficiencies of crimmigration—which bar access to immigration benefits, undermine procedural safeguards for fair and accurate outcomes, and embed racialization into immigration enforcement—will undermine perceptions about the legitimacy of immigration law. This has important implications for immigration reform. If immigration enforcement lacks procedural justice, any compromise struck with crimmigration at its core will exacerbate public distrust of immigration law.