Document Type

Paper

Publication Date

2014

Keywords

Civil and criminal immigration law enforcement, immigration, imprisonment

Abstract

Only recently has imprisonment become a central feature of both t across every level of government and involving civil and criminal law enforcement tools.

Examining the population as a whole provides crucial insights as to how we arrived at this state of mass immigration imprisonment. While political motivations — parallel to those that fueled the rapid expansion of criminal mass incarceration — may have started the trend, this Article demonstrates that key legal and policy choices explain how imprisonment has become an entrenched feature of immigration law enforcement. In fact, legislators and immigration officials have locked themselves into this choice, as there are now literally billions of dollars, tens of thousands of prison beds, and innumerable third parties invested in maintaining and expanding the use of immigration imprisonment. Using the literature on path dependence and legal legitimacy, this Article explains the phenomenon of immigration imprisonment as a single category that spans all levels of government. Rather than continue further along this path, the Article concludes by suggesting that policymakers should seek a future reflective of immigration law enforcement’s past when imprisonment was the exception rather than the norm.



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