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.
Evangeline G. Abriel,
The California Way: An Analysis of California’s Immigrant-Friendly Changes to its Criminal Laws
, 66 How. L.J. 517
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