Critical Criminology

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 43–66 | Cite as

The Criminalization of Aliens: Regulating Foreigners

  • Pamela Preston
  • Michael P. Perez


Intergroup contact and conflict is inevitable in the context of global economic competition and geopolitical interests. Immigrant and migratory groups have particularly been subjected to unequal treatment by members of dominant host groups, generally as a means of promoting and protecting their own economic and political interests. Immigrants often serve as a dependent and secondary labor force, useful within fluctuating cycles of labor shortage, economic crises, and economic prosperity. Likewise, criminalization is one tool that perpetuates notions of “otherness,” which in turn maintains immigrant minorities as a secondary labor force; and justifies penal punishment of them. For instance, in the United States, Chicanos and Mexican immigrants have been exploited as secondary labor, and have also been more likely than many other groups to be swept up in the Criminal Justice System. Drawing on neo-Marxist perspectives and postcolonial notions of “otherness”, this paper examines the relationship between incarceration of foreigners and economic conditions, economic threat, population change, and otherness. As hypothesized, country level data suggests that factors such as a free market economy, population change, economic competition, and a concentration of immigrants in the population are related to the level of imprisonment of foreigners. Implications for further research are also discussed.


Criminal Justice System Population Change Migratory Group Labor Shortage Mexican Immigrant 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pamela Preston
    • 1
  • Michael P. Perez
    • 2
  1. 1.Criminal Justice ProgramPenn State UniversitySchuylkill HavenUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyCalifornia State UniversityUSA

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