Robina in Conversation forum examines immigration, criminal law

Posted Date: October 9, 2013

Although Latinos comprise the largest minority group in the United States, Professor Yolanda Vásquez argues that the American Dream remains elusive for many of them: they have higher levels of poverty, unemployment, and incarceration than their white counterparts. What’s more, she contends, their situation has been exacerbated in the past 30 years by the growing incorporation of immigration law into the criminal justice system — a development known as “crimmigration.”

The Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice will explore the interplay of immigration and criminal law in an upcoming public forum, “‘Crimmigration’ in the United States: Racial Exclusion in a Post-Racial Society.” The free public event will be 4-5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, at the University of Minnesota Law School. It is the latest installment of the Robina in Conversation series.

Professor Stephen Meili of the University of Minnesota Law School will moderate the discussion, which will be based on the scholarship of Vásquez, assistant professor of law at the University of Cincinnati. Meili and Vásquez will be joined by Professor Juliet Stumpf of Lewis & Clark Law School and Susana De León, a Minnesota-based immigration attorney.

“Like many immigrant-receiving nations around the world, in recent years the United States has increased the scope of crimes justifying deportation and criminalized immigrant status by detaining immigrants in large numbers,” Meili said. “This forum will allow experts in immigration law to explore these issues in depth and to engage the audience in a lively discussion.”

Vásquez contends that crimmigration has resulted in sharply increasing rates of incarceration and detention for Latinos, who now represent the largest number of people removed from the United States for “criminal” convictions. It also has helped to reinforce the negative stereotypes of Latinos that are pervasive in U.S. society. On this basis, she offers a powerful and controversial critique of crimmigration and what she sees as its oppressively discriminatory impact.

Vázquez joined the College of Law at the University of Cincinnati in 2012. Before joining academia, she was previously a public defender in the Cook County Public Defender’s Office in Chicago and the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. She also conducted federal litigation on behalf of migrant farmworkers in the areas of labor and immigration. In 2011, she was awarded the Jack Wasserman Memorial Award for Excellence in Litigation in the Field of Immigration Law.

Stumpf is a professor of law at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore. Prior to joining Lewis & Clark’s faculty in 2005, she was an acting assistant professor at New York University School of Law. Previously, she clerked for Judge Richard A. Paez on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She also was a senior trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

De León’s law firm, De León & Nestor, LLC, handles immigration and criminal cases in all state, federal and immigration courts. She is chairwoman of the board of directors of the National Lawyers Guild’s National Immigration Project.

Meili is the Vaughan G. Papke Clinical Professor in Law at the University of Minnesota Law School. He is the Supervising Attorney in the Law School’s Immigration and Human Rights Clinic, where students represent asylum-seekers and detained individuals in various immigration and appellate court proceedings.


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