Immigration & Criminal Justice
Immigrants face many obstacles in the criminal justice system, and Bei Bei is no exception. Prosecutors routinely use immigration status as a way to limit a defendant’s option in a criminal case. Bei Bei is offered multiple plea deals, but any plea to a felony would result in immediate deportation.
Bei Bei highlights the tremendous power state authorities have over vulnerable populations, including immigrants and women of color. In Shuai's case, the story is further complicated by her refusal to accept a plea bargain, showing the extent to which fear of deportation blocks access to basic human rights and justice. Bei Bei's case and the subsequent difficulties she faced staying in the United States raise many immigration issues that are often overlooked, particularly the obstacles immigrants in particular face in the criminal justice system. Prosecutors often leverage deportation and immigration status as collateral to coerce defendants to plea to charges. Non-citizens frequently have inadequate legal counsel and are rushed through the courts, summarily deported to countries they sought to escape and tearing families apart.