Date of Completion


Embargo Period



crimmigration, Brazilian immigrants, social work, human rights, critical phenomenology

Major Advisor

Dr. Scott Harding

Associate Advisor

Dr. David Androff

Associate Advisor

Dr. Kathryn Libal

Field of Study

Social Work


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Crimmigration, or the criminalization of immigration that intensified after the attacks of September 11, 2001, has impacted the lives of many immigrants living in the United States. After 9/11 there was an acceleration of the merger of immigration law and criminal law, and its enforcement, at the local, state, and federal levels. These restrictive laws have resulted in the increased incarceration, detainment, and mass deportation of immigrants throughout the United States. This qualitative study focused on the lived experience of Brazilian immigrants living in Connecticut.

A critical phenomenological design was used to understand how crimmigration and other factors such as the economy shapes the lived experiences of Brazilian immigrants. Twenty participants were interviewed twice (for a total of 40 interviews). Seven themes emerged from participants’ interviews centered on: immigration experiences (initial and subsequent), trabalho (work), crimmigration, discrimination, emotions, transnational social networks, and racial/ethnic identity.

Brazilians are economic migrants coming to the United States in search of a better life. Brazilians’ experiences with work in the United States are a central facet of their “lived experience.” Participants’ work experiences are molded by historical and political events shaping the national debate on immigration.

This study also argues that crimmigration in the United States poses one of the most important human rights challenges today. Critical race theory posits that crimmigration is primarily directed at the growing Latino population of the United States. As agents of change committed to social justice on behalf of oppressed and vulnerable populations, social workers are in a unique position to advocate for immigrants affected by crimmigration, to fight for the human rights of immigrant families and their children torn apart by crimmigration, and to be at the forefront of the immigration debate in the United States.