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Immigration falls exclusively within the federal government’s purview, and states are generally prohibited from legislating in the area of immigration. At the same time, however, a large number of individuals are subject to deportation, denial of admission, and denial of immigration benefits based upon convictions of state crimes, over which states generally have exclusive authority. At a time when both the federal government and some states seem determined to expand the immigration consequences of even relatively minor criminal con- duct, is there anything states can do to protect their noncitizen re- sidents? Surprisingly, yes, quite a bit. California, for example, considers the term “Californian” to cover all of its residents, whether they are citizens, lawful permanent residents, or present without law- ful status. This approach has led the state to enact a series of changes to its criminal statutes to reduce, in thoughtful and innovative ways, the immigration effect of some criminal conduct. Because the Califor- nia Legislature is not the final authority in determining whether a criminal history will result in immigration consequences, its changes are only as effective as their implementation by California courts and recognition by the federal immigration authorities.

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