Chapter

What Part of “Illegal” Don’t You Understand?

Dianne Solís

in Writing Immigration

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780520267176
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520950207 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520267176.003.0004
What Part of “Illegal” Don’t You Understand?

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This chapter suggests that it is not easy to answer the question “What Part of ‘Illegal’ Don't You Understand?” Immigration law is increasingly intertwined with criminal law to the point of creating a new “crimmigration” regime. Due process questions come up frequently as the toughest crackdown in decades touches the lives of illegal immigrants, legal permanent residents, and citizens of the United States. Moreover, the law is full of contradiction. Unauthorized children have a right to a free public education under the Supreme Court decision in Plyer v. Doe but cannot take a job legally when they graduate from high school. Mixed-status families live with both the fruits of citizenship and the risk of deportation. This chapter argues the need to calibrate the legal lens while recognizing that the essence of the writer's craft is finding the humanity in the story. That can mean changing the camera angle frequently through story selection that takes readers inside the lives of police officers, and clinic directors, as well as children with a parent who has been deported.

Keywords: United States; immigration; immigration law; criminal law; crimmigration; illegal immigrants; children; mixed-status families; citizenship; deportation

Chapter.  4286 words. 

Subjects: Migration Studies

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