Immigrants have never had an easy welcome in the United States, but recent history shows a pattern of intensifying criminalization reflected in our laws and policies.

Section 1325 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), passed in xxxx, made it a crime to cross the border without inspection from a federal agent. In 1996, Congress enacted the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act” (IIRAIRA) and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). These laws reduced due process in immigration, lengthened detention and made it mandatory, added teeth to deportation rules, and established the 287(g) program, which deputizes local police to enforce immigration.

IIRAIRA expanded the definition of what constituted an aggravated felony under immigration law and also made it retroactive. Before 1996, this term referred to serious and violent offenses. Immigrants convicted of aggravated felonies coud go before a judge, who would consider their positive contributions, the impact to their families, and previous record.

Under IIRAIRA, aggravated felonies now included non-violent offenses like tax evasion, forgery, perjury, or fencing stolen property. Immigrants convicted of these offenses became newly deportable even if they entered the country legally, had permanent residency, and had ties to the community. No judge could use discretion to keep them here. 

At the state and local level, classification as a gang member or affiliate denies young immigrants access to DACA or future legalization. A minor mistake could result in exile from the only country they know.

Increasingly punitive criminal justice policies mean less due process, more ways to be deported and more bars to naturalization for legal immigrants, not to mention status for undocumented people. 


CHIRLA is a leader and partner in enacting local and state laws to roll back “crimmigration,” the conflation of criminal and immigration law. Our successes:

  • SB 1310 (Lara): Changed misdemeanor sentencing to a maximum of 364 days
  • AB 1352 (Eggman): Ends unintended immigration consequences for immigrants who successfully complete alternative judgment programs allowing offenders to participate in drug rehabilitation
  • AB 2298 (Weber): Creates a transparent and accountable process for using gang designation databases 
  • AB 208 (Eggman): Provides diversion before, rather than after, the plea process in minor drug cases
  • AB 2845 (Bonta): Created a pardon panel which takes account of immigration consequences in criminal sentencing
  • SB 785 (Wiener): Bans disclosing the legal status of litigants and witnesses in criminal and civil hearings without prior consent from a judge 
  • SB 1393 (Mitchell): Lets judges decide when and whether to enforce five-year sentence enhancements
  • AB 668 (Gonzalez): Ensures state courts remain a safe place for immigrants by barring Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), from entering them to make arrests
  •  AB 917 (Reyes): Requires local law enforcement to swiftly provide certification/police reports for U/T visa applications
  • SB 136 (Wiener): Repeals one-year sentence enhancements for immigrants with prior offenses
  • SB 54 (de León): Significantly limits federal deputizing of state and local law agencies to enforce immigration
  • Prop 47: Championed voter approval of measure to reclassify certain non-serous, non-violent offenses as misdemeanors.
  • Prop 57: Championed voter approval of measure to enhance chances for parole in non-violent felonies, allow rehab credits and change juvenile prosecution policy