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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Center for Community Engagement


A New Look at the US War on Drugs and the Colorblind Criminalization of Latinx Immigrants


This paper examines the systemic racism operating behind the over-criminalization of the US immigration system, a relatively recent transformation occurring as a product of the War on Drugs. The unprecedented scale of deporting and detaining Latinx immigrants, in combinationwith the political effort to scapegoat this community as a “threat to national security,” shares commonalities with the heinous mass incarceration and criminalization of African Americans.Both processes thrive on an artificial appearance of “colorblind” impartiality, as the War on Drugs has ensured that racial bias remains implicit, not explicit, in these policies. However, as the increasingly punitive immigration system has entangled itself with the criminal justice system, the distinctive pattern of anti-Latinx racism obscures from public consciousness. Inresponse, this paper attempts to weave a comprehensive narrative that contextualizes the myth behind the so-called “illegal immigrant.” It proceeds by analyzing and connecting works of literature discussing the changes in immigration law, public discourse, and foreign policy occurring at the intersection of the War on Drugs.

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