Event—Scholarly Seminars

Patrisia Macias-Rojas, University of Illinois at Chicago and Maggie Elmore, University of California-Berkeley

"Crime Politics and Immigration Policymaking: Revisiting the 1996 Law that Transformed the Immigration System"

Patrisia Macias-Rojas

The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) played a pivotal role in merging immigration enforcement and the criminal justice system. Yet scholars have largely overlooked how policies of mass incarceration impacted the law's origins. Drawing from historical research on IIRIRA's most punitive criminal provisions, this article reconsiders the roots of this momentous law. I argue that the 1996 law also was deeply embedded in the prior 40 years of "law and order" policies that have led to the current era of mass incarceration. IIRIRA's most punitive and lasting provisions are rooted in prison overcrowding and the prison bed crisis under the so-called War on Drugs. As the findings show, by restructuring detention and deportation, IIRIRA provided the legal infrastructure necessary to free up prison beds in the criminal justice system. The study links the politics of criminal justice to the politics of immigration, and lays out the major implications for both legal arenas.

“No Right to Belong”: Mexican Immigrants, Catholic Social Services, and the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986

Maggie Elmore

“‘No Right to Belong’” considers the role of voluntary agencies as a gateway to citizenship. The US Catholic Church played a pivotal role in shaping and carrying out the most comprehensive immigration reform law in the 20th century. A cornerstone to this legislation was the amnesty program, which provided a pathway for undocumented immigrants to gain documented status. The federal government contracted with Catholic Social Services to process amnesty applications. Frustrated with the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s refusal to grant amnesty to eligible applicants, Catholic Social Services teamed up with Mexican American civil rights organizations, and sued the federal government.

“‘No Right to Belong’” is the final chapter in a project that examines the relationship between the US federal government, the Catholic Church, and ethnic Mexicans – both US citizens and non-citizens – over the course of the twentieth century.