The Crimmigration Complex

BY Mary Fan

The nation is attempting to accomplish immigration reform again.  Leaders vow that this time will be different. The two groups most targeted by immigration control law over the last century, Hispanics and Asians, have increased in numbers and political power. Conservative leaders are realizing that hostile policies toward people perceived as foreign are alienating rising demographic groups and that reform can be a peace offering. Yet, as in the past, the debate over immigration reform continues to be dominated by a focus on alleged “amnesty for lawbreakers” and a fierce divide that doomed reform proposals in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2010.  One side decries rewarding lawbreakers and demands more stringent laws while the other side calls for legalizing an estimated 11 million undocumented people.  Overlooked in the clash are problems in the nation’s swollen crimmigration complex that endanger values important to each side.

This Article is about curbing the most problematic excesses of the crimmigration complex.  The Article uses the term “crimmigration complex” in two senses, to evoke both the prison-industrial complex and the complex that distorts behavior in psychoanalytic theory.  First, crimmigration complex refers to the expanding array of government agencies and private companies drawing on taxpayer dollars to deploy criminal sanctions to enforce civil immigration law.  Second, crimmigration complex refers to the competing passions, fears, and history that sustain costly crimmigration law and policy and block the ability to pursue more cost-effective approaches.  This article argues that continuing to feed the ravenous crimmigration complex endangers values important to both sides of the immigration reform divide. The Article contends that crimmigration reform should be on the agenda and explores how the impasse-bridging interests of power, demography, and fiscal responsibility counsel for crimmigration reform.

DOWNLOAD PDF | 92 N.C. L. Rev. 75 (2014)