Here at The Laura Flanders Show we have a comprehensive John Jay Justice Fellowship fellowship program where participants work hands-on, gaining knowledge about our independent movement media operation producing our TV, radio and podcast productions. Throughout the program our entire staff spends time with each fellow, sharing expertise and knowledge from editing to scripting to promotions and technical skills. We mentor our fellows and guide them in producing their own media pieces. You are about to hear one of those stories produced by our Justice Capital Initiative fellow Laila Riaz, a student at John Jay College.

Several counties in North Carolina have partnered up with federal law enforcement in the action of criminalization of immigration, also known as crimmigration. Crimmigration is a body of law within immigration law that deals with criminal offenses and their effects on an individual’s immigration status. Dr. Felicia Arriaga, a North Carolina native, has dedicated her research to this issue and ways we can help those at risk of deportation now. Dr. Felicia Arriaga’s book, Behind Crimmigation: ICE, Law Enforcement, and Resistance in America, explores the community-led conversations about this crisis. Laila Riaz, a student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice is a fellow for The Laura Flanders Show through the school’s Justice Capital Initiative. She interviews Dr. Felicia Arriaga to discuss ICE operations and its effects on the migrant crisis in New York City. Moreover, she seeks to analyze how to use our platforms to raise awareness and be advocates for change. 

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According to the U.S Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Homeland Security has deported over 40,000 individuals since May 2023 — more than any year prior. Dr. Felicia Arriaga, a North Carolina native, has dedicated her research to understanding the relationship between local law enforcement and the federal government to identify, incarcerate, and deport undocumented immigrants. Her book, “Behind Crimmigation: ICE, Law Enforcement, and Resistance in America”, explores community-led conversations on this crisis. She references “La Polimigra”, which is the criminalization of immigration procedure and policy. A county sheriff in North Carolina had such a high turnout rate of removing immigrants that similar procedures and methods for targeting immigrants have become implemented around the country, she shares. Moreover, the county sheriff became a model for the ICE partnerships becoming task forces with local law enforcement and the federal government. 

In North Carolina, the local sheriff has the authority to not only make arrests but control the operations of local jails. The local sheriff has the power to detain immigrants and direct them towards ICE. Dr. Arriaga shares that many of these immigrants are targeted outside of clinics and shops.

“The sheriffs are openly being racist . . . I was surprised, although I shouldn’t be given our country’s history of racism and structural racism.”

There is funding to support crimmigration, including grant money that sheriff’s receive to hold immigrants. “I was surprised at how open the documents were and to see these budgets that said ‘an immigration enforcement budget, or the immigration and customs enforcement fund,’” says Dr. Arriaga.

Concerning the influx of migrants in New York City, Dr. Arriaga believes education, housing, and allocating more funds can also be a solution to help newcomers “There’s been a clear lag in providing these resources. It takes more money, but I also think it takes more streamlining. There’s clear concerns about where people are going to end up . . . We need to be thinking five years ahead, especially if people will have to wait for asylum. The other side of that is if you lose your asylum case or you’re denied asylum, then you are subject to deportation.”

Dr. Arriaga encourages younger generations to understand what is happening in their communities, and says migrants should have opportunities to be their spokesman for change. “How do we create systems where people can continue to advocate for themselves beyond the need for leaders, or traditional leaders in the way we typically think about it?”

How can we help migrants, stop criminalizing immigration and break the cycle? The answer lies within our system. We must encourage educating communities about the coalitions affecting their families and livelihood but also give them the resources they need to support themselves. 

“Listen to the people. All the research projects that I’ve done have been because someone in the community asked the question. I see it as my responsibility to do the research but also do it in a way that they can do it on their own. In this participatory way I don’t need to be there to continue doing the research, we should be training people to do this on their own.”

At The Laura Flanders Show, we’re dedicated to providing a platform for diverse voices in the field of social justice. This report, a collaboration between The Laura Flanders Show fellowship program and CUNY John Jay College, reflects our commitment. The opinions presented are solely those of the guest contributor and do not necessarily reflect or represent The Laura Flanders Show’s views or those of CUNY John Jay College.

For more information on the John Jay College Justice Capital Initiative, please email us at info@LauraFlanders.org

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