Jennifer researches the intersection of criminal and immigration law and enforcement. Her work has explored the regulation of human trafficking and the securitization of immigration law. Recently, she has focused upon the expanding participation of state and local law enforcement agencies in U.S. immigration enforcement and the failure of legal systems to provide adequate deterrents to unlawful immigration policing practices. She has also done research focusing on the substantive and procedural issues raised by the increasing reliance on the criminal justice system as a tool for managing migration.
Professor Chacón recently completed data collection on a multi-year study sponsored by the National Science Foundation examining how legal service providers, community organizers and community members managed the legal uncertainty of U.S. immigration law, particularly the persistent uncertainty around discretionary programs administered by the executive branch like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the failed Deferred Action for Parents of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. Focused on the Southern California region, the study provides a detailed look into how mediating organizations, state and local policies and policing, and shifting federal immigration enforcement priorities and practices shaped the experiences of Southern California residents in the 2014 to 2017 period. Professor Chacón is currently working on a book manuscript for Stanford University Press, along with coauthor and principle investigator Susan Bibler Coutin of the University of California, Irvine (PI), Stephen Lee of the University of California, Irvine, and Sameer Ashar of UCLA. She and her coauthors have published related work in the UC Davis Law Review, the Fordham Law Review and Citizenship Studies. Professor Chacón offers a related, detailed account of shifting immigration-related policing practices in Southern California in a forthcoming UCLA Law Review article.