Noncitizen Justice: The Criminal Case Processing of non-U.S. Citizens in Texas and California

Guest Lecture

  • Date: Jun 30, 2021
  • Time: 06:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Prof. Michael T. Light (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
  • Michael T. Light is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research primarily focuses on crime, punishment, and immigration. His recent work has been published in the American Journal of Sociology, the American Sociological Review, the European Sociological Review, Social Forces, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • VIDEO: with video podcast (link within this webpage)
  • Location: via Zoom | Guests are welcome!
  • Host: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law
  • Contact:
Immigration enforcement is increasingly dependent on local criminal justice authorities, and yet basic questions on the criminal case processing of non-U.S. citizens in state and local jurisdictions remain unanswered. Leveraging uniquely rich case information on all felony arrests in California and Texas between 2006 and 2018, this article provides a detailed examination of the legal treatment of non-U.S. citizens from booking through sentencing. In both states, we find that non-U.S. citizens arrested for the same crime and with the same prior record are significantly more likely to be convicted and incarcerated than U.S. citizens. These unexplained citizenship gaps often exceed the observed disparities between white and minority defendants, but the results were not identical in both states. In line with the more rigid views towards migrant criminality in Texas, the case processing of foreign nationals is notably more severe there than in California at nearly every key decision point. These findings suggest that even in local criminal justice settings, citizenship is a unique and consequential axis of contemporary legal inequality.

In collaboration with Jason P. Robey, Jungmyung Kim.

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