CILP Sends Letter in Support of VISION Act, Exposing History of Anti-Asian Racism Behind California’s ICE Transfer Policies


Without addressing racist origins, California remains complicit in amplifying the effects of these laws

August 10, 2022

Los Angeles, CA – The Center for Immigration Law and Policy (CILP) at the UCLA School of Law sent a letter to the California State Senate yesterday urging, based on CILP’s research, support for Assembly Bill 937, the Voiding Inequality and Seeking Inclusion for Our Immigrant Neighbors (VISION) Act. The VISION Act would stop California law enforcement officials from transferring people who have served their time in state prisons and local jails to federal immigration officials for deportation.  

The letter describes CILP’s research finding that the U.S.’s early deportation laws were rooted in anti-Asian racism. For example, in 1915, a U.S. Congressman from California supported barring immigration from Asia because “California being on the shores of the Pacific seems to be a dumping ground for the undesirable from Asia.” The Congressman made those remarks in support of an early version of the Immigration Act of 1917, which barred immigration from most of Asia and also made noncitizens deportable if they were sentenced for a “crime involving moral turpitude.”  

Other deportation laws linked narcotics to Asian Americans, Mexicans, and other racial groups as a way of justifying their deportation. The letter describes those laws in greater detail, along with the racist justifications behind them.  

The letter draws from research CILP has been conducting on the anti-Asian roots of immigration and criminal law. Funded by the California Legislature as part of a research program administered by the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, a report on those findings will be released in the fall. 

The letter also describes the overwhelming empirical evidence establishing that modern immigration enforcement practices do not enhance public safety. After briefly explaining the methodology of those studies, which have consistently over the last decade led to the same conclusion, the letter asks the California legislature to take this evidence into account. 

“As with much of U.S. immigration law and policy, the history behind our nation’s conviction-based deportation is deeply rooted in racism. Sadly, the racist harms caused by these policies continue to this day, and have moved well beyond the communities originally targeted,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, CILP Faculty Co-Director. “Based on the research summarized in our letter, we strongly urge the California State Senate to ensure that the legacy of racist immigration lawmaking is not allowed to keep harming Californians in the name of public safety concerns that have no empirical basis. Every person detained or deported because of these transfers represents a devastating loss to our state and its communities.” 

As the letter reads: 

Contrary to some popular misconceptions, Asian American communities continue to suffer the harmful effects of deportations based on criminal convictions. Among California’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, the highest numbers of deportations between January 2017 and February 2022 came from the state’s Chinese (2,348), Indian (1,476), Filipino (547), Armenian (390), and Vietnamese (293) communities. Of course, racial stereotypes have expanded and shifted to encompass Latinx and Black immigrants in the popular conception of immigrant criminality as well. Those stereotypes remain the foundation of today’s laws that make individuals with certain convictions deportable, separating them from their families, communities, and homes. And through its criminal laws, California remains complicit in amplifying the effects of these laws.”  

“Throughout our country’s history, immigration laws—in statutes, regulations, and executive branch orders—have discriminated and excluded on the basis of race, nationality, religion, and ethnicity,” said Hiroshi Motomura, CILP Faculty Co-Director and co-author of CILP’s upcoming report. “The VISION Act will protect many Californians from some of the most troubling legacies of these laws.” 

The full letter is linked here.


Founded in 2020, the Center for Immigration Law and Policy (CILP) at the UCLA School of Law expands the law school's role as a national leader in immigration law and policy, generating innovative ideas at the intersection of immigration scholarship and practice and serving as a hub for transforming those ideas into meaningful changes in immigration policy. 

Follow CILP on Twitter, @UCLA_CILP, or sign up for additional news at bit.ly/CILPnews.

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