Thursday, March 9, 2023

UCLA Report: Anti-AAPI Racism in Immigration and Criminal Law

UCLA Center for Immigration law and Policy Fellow Astghik Hairapetian and Professor Hiroshi Motomura co-author a new report, Anti-AAPI Racism in Immigration and Criminal Law. The report examines the foundation for discrimination, hate, and violence against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities laid by immigration laws that cast AAPI communities as “foreign” or less than fully American. In its own words: "The report sheds light on the intersection of criminal and immigration law and the anti-AAPI origins of laws that remain at the core of this country’s immigration and criminal legal frameworks."

The key findings in the report:

  • Immigration laws containing criminal provisions were explicitly racist from 1873-1990, with persistent effects from even after federal laws moved toward racially neutral language. Part of the reason is the retention of Crimes involving moral turpitude and controlled substance violations as a basis for exclusion and deportation.
  • State laws amplify racist federal laws, even in progressive states like California
    •  State and local enforcement permit transfers to ICE and some local enforcement agencies may use their resources for immigration enforcement
    • Attorney representation is not universally available. Where it is available, funds often cannot be used to represent individuals in removing proceedings with criminal convictions.
    • Gang databases mark certain individuals in a manner that carries adverse immigration consequences. The databases often have significant errors.
  • The impacts on AAPI communities include emotional and financial devastation when families are split and single parents are left to care for children following deportation.

Recommendations to correct the broader history of anti-AAPI racism and curb lingering effects include:

  • Stop transfers to ICE
  • Provide universal representation for all immigrants
  • Discontinue gang databases
  • Amend state criminal laws to eliminate or mitigate immigration consequences

The Center is directed by Motomura and Ahilan Arulunantham. UCLA has conducted many other reports on anti-AAPI violence, including the creation of this interactive map.


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