Juanes and John Legend work together on ‘crimmigration’

by Arturo Pineda 

When you hear that Juanes and John Legend are collaborating, you would expect a new hit single to drop. Instead, it was announced that Juanes and Legend are working on a film that documents the practice of crimmigation from beginning to end.

Crimmigration is not simply the intersection of criminal law and immigration. Yolanda Vázquez, a law professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, defines crimmigration as, “…an institutional structure in which criminal and immigration law have merged in various ways to create a singular and distinct concept with its own structure of laws, procedures, and practices.”

The film currently in production explores the mass incarceration of immigrants and how it directly causes the incarceration industry to thrive. The more detainees, the more funding the prison centers receive from the federal government. Thanks to the “bed mandate” bill of 2009, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is required to keep 34,000 immigrants behind every day. This bill equates to 2 billion dollars worth of business in a year.

On January 20th, Juanes and Legend visited the Eloy Immigration Detention Center in Arizona to sing to the 1,500 immigrant detainees. Most detainees are being prepped to be deported to their respective countries, while another group is battling to retain their legal residency in the United States.

These 1,500 constitute a minute fraction of the roughly 1 million Latinxs and African-Americans currently behind bars. Although Latinxs and African-Americans make up 25% of the US Population, they compromise almost 60% of all incarcerations.

The collaboration between Juanes and Legend is significant because it demonstrates just one of the intersections of the Latinx and African-American identities and interests. The more conversations that we have about the prison industrial complex and the Afro-Latinx identity, the more space we have for unity and understanding.