The Double Punishment of Criminal Inadmissibility for Immigrants

  • Souheil Benslimane
  • David Moffette


Canada bars non-citizens from entering or staying in the country for a number of reasons, including for what immigration law treats as “criminality”, “serious criminality” or “organized criminality”. Criminal inadmissibility– including for rather minor criminalized acts–raises a number of concerns for those who are targeted, but also for border criminologists, prisoners’ rights activists and migrant justice organizers. In this article, we discuss inadmissibility for “criminality” and “serious criminality” as: 1) a populist rhetorical move put forth by politicians promoting tough-on-crime / tough-on-immigration policies; 2) a form of double punishment that starts before deportation even takes place (and regardless of whether it does); and 3) a discretionary tactic in the policing toolbox to incapacitate people who are deemed undesirable. We illustrate the consequences of criminal inadmissibility by drawing from the experience of one of the co-authors who is facing deportation on this ground.

Author Biographies

Souheil Benslimane

Souheil Benslimane is an illegalized and criminalized migrant who is currently awaiting imminent deportation to Morocco. After serving a federal sentence and being released from immigration detention in March 2018, he became involved in abolitionist, as well as prisoner and migrant justice organizing, as a member of the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project (CPEP), a member of the Ottawa Sanctuary City Network (OSN), and the Coordinator of the Jail Accountability & Information Line (JAIL). 

David Moffette

David Moffette, PhD is Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminology at the University of Ottawa. His research looks at the intersections of immigration law and criminal law, policing, borders, and race and racism. He has been active in migrant justice and social justice movements for 15 years.