The rising number of incarcerated Latinos is due to changes in immigration law that expand the ways the undocumented can be prosecuted and jailed.
A new study by the Pew Hispanic Center reports that Latinos now constitute the largest single ethnic group in the U.S. federal prison system. The rising arrest and detention levels are driven largely by changes in immigration law that criminalize undocumented immigration, with nearly half of all Latino offenders jailed on immigration-related “crimes.”
A recently released report provides another startling indicator of how Latino demographics are being used to lead the United States into a new age, the Age of Crimmigration. Produced by the Pew Hispanic Center, the report found that Latinos are now the largest single ethnic group in the federal prison system.
Fueled, in large part, by changes to immigration law that have multiplied exponentially the ways in which undocumented immigrants can be prosecuted and jailed as criminals, the new Latino federal prison majority documented in the report provides definitive proof of the “crimmigration” thesis developed by legal scholars like Juliet Stumpf of the Lewis and Clark Law School in Oregon. Stumpf’s groundbreaking paper, “The Crimmigration Crisis: Immigrants, Crime, & Sovereign Power,” predicted how a lethal combination of forces—changes to immigration laws, political shifts, intensified prosecution and enforcement—would lead to what she called, in 2006, “the most important development in immigration law today: the convergence of immigration and criminal law.”
On a less legalistic level, the news of the new Latino federal prison majority also means the convergence of hundreds of thousands of the poor white, black and Latino families in terms of their dealings with a prison system fed increasingly with immigrant bodies. Nearly half of all Latino offenders were convicted of immigration-related crimes, crimes that only became crimes as a result of relatively new sentencing laws and policies.