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Date and Location

December 4, 2023
12:00 PM - 1:15 PM ET
Allison Dining Room, Taubman 5th Floor, Hks
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​The Stone Program in Wealth Distribution, Inequality, and Social Policy welcomes Professor Michael T. Light to speak in the Stone Inequality & Social Policy Seminar Series.

Citizenship, Legal Status, and Misdemeanor Justice

Michael T. Light, Professor of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison 

Abstract: Although minor forms of criminal justice contact are increasingly used to identify immigration violators, there is little research at the intersection of immigration and misdemeanor justice. As a result, citizenship remains undertheorized in punishment research and fundamental questions remain unanswered. In this article we introduce the crimmigrant punishment framework to conceptualize the unique case processing consequences for non-U.S. citizens and undocumented immigrants. We then draw on rich case data from all arrests in Texas and California between 2006 and 2018 to establish five notable findings. 1) Misdemeanors are common and consequential. We observe over 1.4 million misdemeanor arrests involving non-U.S. citizens, the overwhelming majority of which resulted in criminal charges and formal punishments. 2) The offenses that funnel noncitizens into the misdemeanor system are generally similar to those of U.S. citizens, however, we do observe an appreciable number of arrests linked to noncitizens’ legal status (e.g. giving false information). 3) Once in the misdemeanor system, noncitizens, and especially undocumented immigrants, are significantly more likely to be convicted and incarcerated than similarly situated U.S. citizens. 4) These disparities are more severe in Texas than in California. 5) Over time, the punishment gap between citizens and noncitizens in California has effectively disappeared.

For more information about the seminar, click here.

Speakers and Presenters

​Michael T. Light (Professor of Sociology, UW-Madison)