Much of the existing discussion surrounding the immigration-crime link has been influenced by public perceptions of the criminality of illegal immigrants. Recent empirical studies, however, suggest that immigrant status may instead operate as a protective factor, shielding immigrants from (serious) criminal offending. Rarely investigated is the extent to which illegal immigration, construed as deportability status, relates to criminal justice sentencing decisions. Using data from a cohort of inmates incarcerated for a new offense during 2008 in a large southern state, this study examines the impact of a federal immigration detainer on sentence length and type, controlling for a variety of legal and extralegal factors. Using propensity score matching, results indicate that inmates with federal immigration detainers received significantly shorter sentences compared to non-deportable inmates. No significant difference was found in the likelihood of receiving a life or death sentence between inmates with and without immigration detainers.
- citizenship status