America’s immigration system is a racist system, book author tells discussion group

By Sydnee Reddy
May 13, 2021

The system that America has in place for immigration is a racist system that has negatively affected millions of immigrants says the author hosting a book discussion.

April 14 Cabrini’s Center on Immigration hosted its final book talk of the 2020-2021 school year. The title of the book the talk was centered around was “No Justice in the Shadows: How America Criminalizes Immigrants”  written by Alina Das.

Das is an immigrant rights activist, lawyer, and professor at New York University school of law. She is also the co-director of the NYU Immigrants Rights clinic, which is a leading institution in national and local struggles concerning immigrant rights.

According to Google Books “No Justice in the shadows: How America Criminalizes Immigrants” describes the book as a “provocative account of our immigration system’s long, racist history reveals how it has become the brutal machine that upends the lives of millions of immigrants today.”

Screenshot from zoom of Book talk featuring the author of “No Justice in the Shadows
How America Criminalizes Immigrants” Alina Das

Das started writing the book in 2017 and released it in 2020 but says her inspiration for the book didn’t come from Donald Trump being in office.

The inspiration Das to write “No Justice in the shadows: How America Criminalizes Immigrants” came from a reaction that she saw the way that immigrants have been criminalized and divided into good versus bad for so many years and how it is prevalent in the present day.

In the book, Das discusses the many policies that criminalize immigrants and create the pipeline the goes from arrests to deportation. Throughout the book, she uses real-life clients she worked with to show the effect these policies have on actual people.

Das during the zoom meeting showed one of her clients who is a young man from the Bronx, New York who has lived in the United States since he was 6 years old. He has been detained for three years, while he is trying to fight his deportation case. When Das’s client was detained by ICE, he had a court hearing and showed the court that he had plans to get married to a U.S citizen, ICE blocked it. ICE claimed he was a danger because of a single conviction he had and a history of juvenile arrests. The young man even got a pardon from Governor Andrew Cuomo in February of 2020 and ICE Still blocked it.  Das and the young man’s family went to three different courts to get him released with bond, and finally, in Sept. of 2020 ICE released him and his case is on appeal. But sadly the government still argues that he should be deported. 

Das said that one of the most important themes of her book is how the criminalization of immigrants, for example using their criminal histories, gives reason for why they are labeled as”bad” and should lead to their deportation. She discusses how both political parties use the same justifications on why some immigrants are “bad” and how that unfair that is because that policy creates communities that have been historically and constantly criminalized.

“I enjoyed the talk and liked how we were able to see a glimpse of what really happens with immigration laws in the US,” Gianna Pratt, freshmen childhood education with a special education major, said. “It was nice to talk about something important instead of just not talking about it at all.”

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Sydnee Reddy

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