Over the past several decades, many laws were passed to make the criminal and immigration legal systems more interconnected. As a result, the federal government, police, and prisons often share information about individuals and work together. This means that any contact with the police system can severely impact an individual’s immigration status. And in a system where immigrants of color are already disproportionately impacted by racist policing, this leads to even harsher consequences like deportation and family separation.

To help immigrants understand the risks of this contact, the Immigrant Justice Network (IJN) partnered with CUP and designer Emily Lin to create Break it Down! The bilingual English and Spanish guide explains the different ways that contact with the criminal legal system can impact your immigration status and how the systems are connected. With this information, immigrants can advocate for their rights when interacting with police and fight back against the unjust laws that impact them.

The Immigrant Justice Network launched Break it Down! at a training on decriminalization for community members in February 2022. The guide will be distributed to IJN’s network of local and regional immigrant rights organizations, criminal justice groups, and allied organizations.

Resources & Links

IJN is a leading advocacy voice against the criminalization of immigrants in the United States. Grounded in racial justice values, we build power to defend the dignity of all immigrants.

Emily Lin is a designer and illustrator who strives to translate research, tell stories, and engage with people through design.

Making Policy Public is a program of the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP). CUP partners with policy advocates and graphic designers to produce foldout posters that explain complicated policy issues, like this one.

Funding Support

Support for this project was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

General support for CUP’s programs is provided in part by The Kresge Foundation, Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Mertz Gilmore Foundation, New York Foundation, Sigrid Rausing Trust, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

Special Thanks

Donald Anthonyson, Thorn Chann, Karim Golding, Theresa Kim, Kevin Lam, Soche Meng, María Nóbrega, Alejandra Pablos, Kab Pheng, Seap Phin, Arianna Salgado, Sarath Suong, Nate Tan, Robert Vivar


  • CUP
    Yasmin Safdié
    Genea Foster
  • IJN
  • Jane Shim
    Oliver Merino
  • Designer
  • Emily Lin