A University of Kansas researcher who leads the KU Center for Migration Studies said the latest expansion of the definition of "criminal alien" matches action by both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, and that the shift in policy will likely lead to more deportations and number of people detained in immigration-related cases.
Cecilia Menjívar, KU Foundation Distinguished Professor of Sociology, is available to discuss implications of the changes in U.S. immigration enforcement policy. Her broad research focuses on U.S.-bound migration from Central America and how the laws and the legal context that receive immigrants influence their lives and trajectories in America. She has also co-authored recent research on how media portrayals drive perception of immigration policy and issues that migrants returning to Mexico face.
"In this case, the definition goes pretty far and wide — much broader than past administrations. We have seen already that with each expansion of this category — such as new crimes added to the list of deportable offenses —there is a sharp increase in deportations, but also and very importantly, in detentions," Menjívar said. "Private prisons are expanding rapidly and most of the people they house are immigrants, so a broadening of the category of ‘criminal alien’ has the direct effect of sending more immigrants to detention."