Law and legal institutions matter, and we can use them in coordination with grassroots disability activism to effect social change for people with disabilities. This piece follows the legacy of the legal minds who pioneered legal realism, a doctrine that dared to question the law’s infallible authority and pushed the boundaries of the law, merging them with social movements to create litigation strategies for justice. Through the concept of intersectionality,1 I posit that progressive immigration reform can only take place when we consider the unique ways in which racism and ableism interact to permeate our immigration system. Disability justice requires us to challenge notions of normalcy and confront a system of capitalism and meritocracy that prioritizes productive bodies and minds and devalue disabled ones. As we inject disability legal studies into our arsenal of critical legal theory, we must attend to the experiences of disabled people of color. I explore a framework that unites an intersectional scholarly approach with activist work. I present the work of the National Coalition for Latinxs with Disabilities (CNLD) as an exemplar of how grassroots disability justice movements are complicating our understanding of disability and proscribing more complex solutions to the immigration debate.
I. Case Study: DACA and DREAM Act
Julia, an undocumented college student, did not allow herself to get too excited when the Obama administration announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on June 15, 2012. The DACA program would provide protection from deportation for some undocumented individuals like Julia who were brought to the United States at a young age and allow them to secure work visas. Yet, so many unfulfilled promises had left Julia and her family with no sense of security. Julia’s status as an undocumented college student was not her only barrier to attaining her ideal profession in the country that became her home when she was five years old. In addition to being undocumented, Julia is a woman with cerebral palsy. Julia rejects that disability is simply an individual flaw or problem. She believes disability results from a socially constructed process in which her body is labeled and treated as unworthy. She intuits this from her lived experience. As an immigrant seeking legal services, Julia has found most attorneys she has encountered do not understand disability and the ways it complicates her immigration experience.
At the start of 2014, Julia applied for and received DACA status. Although she has a work permit, Julia has been unsuccessful at finding employment. Most of the places at which she interviewed were not accessible. Julia believes she has been denied employment on the basis of her disability since she is qualified for the several jobs she has applied. Julia uses speech-to-text software to type, and her disability should not be an issue for her completing work. Yet potential employers continued to express unwarranted concern. For example, one employer reiterated that “this position involves a lot of multitasking including note-taking” even after Julia had explained her strong ability to multitask and take notes. After several failed interviews, Julia has remained unemployed and instead volunteers with a disability organization.
Julia’s story is an amalgamation of several stories that I heard from disabled immigrants recounting their experience with DACA after the Trump administration announced that it was rescinding the law on September 5, 2017.2 DACA had addressed barriers to inclusion in employment based on citizenship status by granting temporary work visas to immigrants who arrived in the United States during their childhood.3 However, DACA did not address the employment discrimination faced by qualifying immigrants with disabilities because of disability discrimination. Thus, immigrants with disabilities who received DACA may have found DACA insufficient in addressing their employment access needs based on their disability.
The Trump administration called on legislators to pass congressional legislation rather than to rely on an executive order to support the nearly 800,000 DACA-mented immigrants who would be affected by the administration’s rescinding of the law.4 In response, legislators have pushed for the passage of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act). The DREAM Act is legislation first introduced in 2001 that addresses the similar group of “Dreamers”5 but goes beyond DACA to provide a path toward citizenship for those who qualify under requirements such as the attainment of a high school diploma or equivalent and work done at a higher education level. However popular the DREAM Act remains (one poll demonstrating a 76 percent favorability),6 the Trump administration only briefly flirted with the idea of a DREAM bill compromise in return for border wall funding before quickly retracting its position in February 2017.7 Proponents still remain hopeful that they can pass the DREAM Act in this congress.
Since the 1990s, the immigration rights community have coalesced around and fought hard for the passage of an immigration law like the DREAM Act, arguing that it is a more viable legislative option in place of more comprehensive immigration reform. But many disabled immigrants, including those I spoke with, are not satisfied with a law like the DREAM Act. This is because the DREAM Act, much like DACA, would exclude people with disabilities because it privileges immigrants who can attain higher education and employment—systems that disproportionately discriminate against disabled individuals. The DREAM Act’s education requirements would put disabled folks for whom education is inaccessible at a disadvantage. It also perpetuates the deserving/undeserving or good/bad immigrant narratives that implicate not only disabled immigrants but also immigrants with criminal histories, who are elders, and without higher levels of education. And often, these categories overlap.
Undergirding both DACA and the DREAM Act is the continual push toward a capitalist system favoring non-disabled individuals for the purpose of production. Within a capitalist system, people with disabilities are not valued as they are considered insufficient laborers. This agenda is reinforced as the current administration moves away from family-based migration and toward a so-called merit-based immigration that prioritizes immigrants with the capacity to make money. Recently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed a “public charge regulation” that is an extension of this ableist narrative: The proposed rule makes an immigrant’s potential income a highly positive factor and an immigrant’s disability a highly negative factor in deciding whether an immigrant attains a green card or visa.8 Immigration laws and policies will continue to discriminate against disabled immigrants until we reevaluate the harm that the ideas of meritocracy and capitalism pose to disabled individuals. Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves whether we want to live in a society where we value all humans, and whether we condone policies that flirt with eugenics.
II. Intersectional Approach to Immigration Law and Policy: Critical Race and Disability Studies in the Law
As evidenced by DHS’s proposed public charge regulation, U.S. immigration law and policy explicitly calls into question not only one’s immigration status and nationality but also one’s disability status. Implicitly, disability, race, gender, and sexuality are heavily at play in the immigration experience and complicate it. A disabled immigrant will have a markedly different experience than a non-disabled immigrant. A disabled immigrant in detention, for example, will face inaccessible facilities that will increase the likelihood of injury or death. A disabled immigrant with a green card who must wait five years to qualify for public healthcare under the Personal Responsbility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), or welfare reform law9 sign by former President Clinton in 1996, will fare substantially worse without access to life-supporting treatments than a non-disabled immigrant. The “healthy immigrant effect” or “selective migration” phenomenon tells us that only the most healthy immigrants migrate, which may be partially because our immigration systems deter disabled individuals who wish to migrate but cannot for fear of barriers or because of realized barriers.10 At the same time, the immigration system creates more disabled individuals by exposing immigrants to trauma, abuse, and harsh conditions. For example, the separation of children from their parents will leave an indelible mark on those children’s lives, creating a new generation of immigrants with psychiatric disabilities. Because our immigration system functions under and perpetuates systems of racism and ableism, immigration law requires the merging of a critical race and disability studies in legal academia, along with attention to how other categories of oppression function (for instance, ageism, sexism, transphobia).11 Racism is a system of beliefs and actions based on the idea that certain races are superior to others. Similarly, ableism is a system of beliefs and actions based on the idea that certain abilities or ways of being are superior to others.12 Although we have traditionally paid attention to race in immigration debates, disability as a category of analysis within immigration debates does not have sufficient investment. Yet to engage in progressive immigration policy, it is imperative to understand the multiple systems of oppression that someone like Julia, an undocumented disabled woman of color, confronts, including her experience as an individual with a disability. Consequently, the work of critical race studies (CRS) scholars is often incomplete when it does not account for the ways ableism functions in tandem with racism in the law. Likewise, disability legal studies (DLS) scholars cannot leave out the important ways in which race functions, often, inextricably so, with disability.
In this effort, I build upon the work of both critical race studies (CRS) and disability legal studies (DLS) scholars. My analytic approach draws on critical race studies,13 disability legal studies,14 and feminist theories.15 I use this intersectional approach to account for the interacting axes of oppression (race, disability, and gender) generated by and controlled in the law. I draw from similar developments in other fields, such as the education field, in which some scholars use a dis/ability critical race studies (Dis/Crit) 16 framework, to posit that such an intersectional analysis must also be done in the legal realm—specifically in the field of immigration law and policy.
Critical race theory became established in legal scholarship in the 1990s. CRT’s major tenants are the idea of interest convergence, that racism is embedded in society, and that race is a social construct.17 While disability studies has been around since the 1990s, disability legal studies was recently coined by Arlene Kanter in 2011.18 DLS calls for the integration of disability studies into the law. It draws on similar tenants found in critical race theory such as interest convergence, ableism as embedded in society, and disability as a social construct. Though, as disability studies progresses, scholars increasingly support a more nuanced view of disability that moves away from a pure social model and acknowledges the contingent nature of disability and impairment. As more scholars build on the work of DLS, it will become more apparent how the law has played a strong role in the construction of disability as a category and the discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
Disability studies is also undergoing a new wave of scholars and activists, particularly individuals of color, who are further contesting its boundaries. Importantly, several scholars and activists have critiqued disability studies and activism for their failure to take race into account.19 Prominent queer and disabled leaders of color in the disability movement, forming the group Sins Invalid, have called for a project of “disability justice” to include communities of color, and for more engagement on issues, policies and solutions that the disability community has not traditionally followed. 20 This work moves us beyond the frameworks of disability rights created by an earlier wave of disability activists and scholars (often white individuals with mobility impairments) who paved the way for and focused on the passage of civil rights law such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.
My academic work draws upon not only a line of legal scholars of color who have shaped critical race and disability studies but also upon self-advocates who contest the status quo. Many of my dear friends and colleagues who have informed my own scholarship and activism are individuals who have worked to re-center disabled people of color in the disability rights movement including Mia Ives-Rublee, Maria (Conchita) Hernandez Legorreta, Lydia X. Z. Brown, Talila “TL” Lewis, Sandy Ho, Vilissa Thomson, Ola Ojuwumi, Rebecca Cokley, and Dior Vargas. This shift on the ground is bringing more communities with intersecting identities into the disability community, thus placing pressure on disability leadership to respond to our needs and experiences as well as cultivating space for our leadership. Kimberlé Crenshaw, the legal scholar who coined the term intersectionality, recently stated in a speech at Columbia Law School that intersectional theories exist for the purpose of putting them into practice.21 I believe that it is an iterative process in that theory informs praxis and vice versa. The current wave of activism of a new generation of disabled people (particularly disabled people of color) is informing the growth and future of a critical race and disability studies in legal academia.
Drawing on important theories and frameworks developed in critical legal theory and from the activists on the ground, I posit that the following fundamentals should govern a critical race and disabilities legal studies analysis when assessing immigration policy and law:
- Immigration law often simultaneously constructs disability and race. These categories, disability and race, cannot be considered separately, as solutions to immigration policy become nuanced when considering individuals who experience multiple forms of oppression.
- Immigration law apportions privileges and rights based on disability and race. Under a system of capitalism where disabled bodies and minds are devalued, immigration law will disfavor disabled immigrants.
- Under a system of ableism and racism, immigration laws tend to pass in favor of disabled people of color only when it favors the white, non-disabled majority (interest convergence22).
- Our conception of disability when assessing the immigrant experience needs to reject hegemonic formations that privilege the global north over the global south. To do so, we need to build from disabled immigrants’ experiences.
III. Building From Disabled Immigrants’ Experiences: The National Coalition for Latinxs with Disabilities (CNLD)
The National Coalition for Latinxs with Disabilities (CNLD) was formed in the summer of 2016 by approximately thirty disabled Latinx individuals and allies from across the United States. CNLD’s goal is to build a society in which the human rights of Latinxs with disabilities are upheld and all their intersecting identities are embraced. Our mission is to work in solidarity to affirm, celebrate, and collectively uplift Latinxs with disabilities through community building, advocacy, protection of rights, resources, and education.
Several CNLD co-founders are disabled women with Latin American roots experiencing feelings of isolation in academia. Our work is personal, stemming from our experience, and often contests the status quo. Through CNLD, this group of scholars formed the CNLD Research Committee (CNLD RC). The mission of the CNLD RC is to advocate, educate, and inform policymakers and the general public of issues through research conducted by and for disabled Latinxs, including research on the experiences and opinions of disabled Latinx immigrants. CNLD also seeks to use the research to add resources and engage in educational activities in the immigration realm in collaboration with existing organizations who share CNLD's mission. Our committee has shifted since its inception but has included individuals such as Lisette Torres-Gerald, Washieka Torres, Leonor Vanik, Sara M. Acevedo, Juliana Velasco, Kristen Salkas, Jorge Matos, Federico Waitoller, and myself. Lisette Torres-Gerald stated the following to describe our work: “Our work and collaboration means critically thinking about and examining issues that impact our community from multiple, intersecting perspectives. It’s listening to, working with, and advocating for our people.”
Rosa Maria became a news phenomenon when U.S. immigration officials followed an ambulance carrying a disabled and undocumented ten-year-old child on her way to life-sustaining surgery and proceeded to detain her, removing her from the hospital post-surgery against doctors’ recommendations.23 It seemed as though the country had discovered then that there were immigrants with disabilities and was horrified by Rosa Maria’s treatment even though disabled immigrants have a history of being subjected to inhumane conditions in the United States. The potential of our fledgling organization that touted intersectional justice became a much needed response to the immigration debate at this time, particularly as the polarization of the national political rhetoric on immigration heightened. During this time, CNLD began to receive outside requests from media, journalists, policy-experts, attorneys, advocates, activists, and disabled immigrants themselves seeking expertise on the intersection of disability and immigration. Though there are scholars and activists working in this area, it is not sufficient. For example, most existing scholarship on the intersection of immigration and disability is often not integrated into legal analysis and disability is often understood through a deficit lens.24 CNLD hit a nerve in the gap of knowledge, expertise, and organizing around the experience of disabled immigrants in the United States.
Thus, within the next year, the CNLD immigration committee was formed and we wrote a letter to U.S. Congress regarding immigrants and refugees with disabilities with over sixty-five signatures from both immigration and disability organizations in support,25 advocated for disabled immigrants in detention centers, and joined the Protecting Immigrant Families coalition as we organized against the DHS’s proposed public charge regulation. Further, the CNLD RC has produced research and presented on the intersection of disability and immigration.26 Our study on the Needs and Identification of Latinxs with Disabilities included a series of questions about immigration status, which yielded data showing that disabled immigrants considered experiences immediately after the arrival to the United States to be the more traumatizing and distressing compared to the immigration experience before leaving their home country or during the journey. Currently, the CNLD RC is in the initial stages of a large national study on the experiences and opinions of Latinx immigrants with disabilities in the United States in order to inform immigration theory and policy. The study will bring together disability and immigration organizations in a focus study, conduct a national survey to capture the experiences and opinions of disabled immigrants, and conduct longer interviews with disabled immigrants to expand upon certain aspects of their experiences.
The work of CNLD has become foundational and imperative to expanding the understanding of the impact of the immigration system on disabled immigrants, particularly as it gives a platform for disabled immigrants’ voices. In our Latinx and immigration communities, often individuals with disabilities do not identify with the broader disability community. Therefore, another important aspect of CNLD’s work is to serve as a bridge into the Latinx and immigrant communities and to welcome them into the disability community, including in leadership, activism, academics and policymaking. In order to promote progressive immigration policy platforms, CNLD’s work, and other efforts like it, must continue.
Disabled people exist in all spaces and where they may not readily be identified, it is likely because there are barriers erected in those spaces. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four Americans have a disability.27 Disability activists and policymakers are in a pivotal moment where we are reassessing the old vanguard of disability policy that brought us to where we are but will not take us to where we need to go. Part of this is because people of color have been disenfranchised from disability studies and activism and disabled individuals have been disenfranchised from critical race studies and activism. As a general matter, growing theories in disability studies and the newly formed disability legal studies need to move beyond analysis of disability rights law and jurisprudence.28 My intervention starts by pointing us toward the issue of immigration policy and law that calls for an intersectional legal studies approach. As we expand our work in assessing the needs and experiences of disabled immigrants, we must also center their voices.
 To read the paper that coined the term ‘intersectionality,’ see Kimberlé Crenshaw, Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics, 1989 U. Chi. Legal F. 139 (1989).
 I interviewed seven people who were DACA-mented and disabled or DACA-mented and had a family member with a disability to highlight them in advocacy efforts with the National Coalition for Latinxs with Disabilities (CNLD).
 Memorandum from Janet Napolitano, Sec’y of Homeland Security, to David V. Aguilar et al., (June 15, 2012), https://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/s1-exercising-prosecutorial-discretion-individuals-who-came-to-us-as-children.pdf.
 Since then, the rescinding of DACA has been ruled unconstitutional.
 Undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.
 See Morning Consult, National Tracking Poll #170817 August 31 – September 03, 2017 (2017), https://morningconsult.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/170817_crosstabs_Politico_v1_TB.pdf (showing 58 percent of registered voters polled believe that DREAMERS “should be allowed to stay and become citizens if they meet certain requirements” and 18 percent of registered voters polled believe that DREAMERS “should be allowed to stay and become legal residents, but NOT citizens,” summing to 76 percent); Chris Nichols, Do Three-Quarters of Americans Support the DREAM Act? Nancy Pelosi Says So, PolitiFact (Sept. 19, 2017, 5:36 PM), https://www.politifact.com/california/statements/2017/sep/19/nancy-pelosi/nancy-pelosi-claims-three-quarters-americans-suppo/.
 Martine Powers, Will Trump Strike a Deal on the Dream Act?, Wash. Post (Feb. 16, 2018), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2018/02/16/will-trump-strike-a-deal-on-the-dream-act.
 Elena Hung & Katherine Perez, Trump’s New Wall to Keep out the Disabled, N.Y. Times (Nov. 29, 2018), https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/29/opinion/trumps-disability-public-charge.html.
 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-193, 110 Stat. 2105 (1996).
 Guillermina Jasso et al., Immigrant Health: Selectivity and Acculturation, in Critical Perspectives on Race and Ethnic Differences in Health in Late Life 227–66 (Norman B. Anderson et al. eds., 2004); Esme Fuller Thomson et al., The Hispanic Paradox and Older Adults’ Disabilities: Is There a Healthy Migrant Effect?, 10 Int’l J. Env’t Res. & Pub. Health 1786 (2013); Steven Kennedy, James Ted McDonald & Nicholas Biddle, The Healthy Immigrant Effect and Immigrant Selection: Evidence From Four Countries (Program for Soc. and Econ. Dimensions of an Aging Population, Research Paper No. 164, 2006), https://socialsciences.mcmaster.ca/sedap/p/sedap164.pdf.
 I posit that a merging of critical race studies (CRS) and disability legal studies (DLS) is important in various areas of the law particularly where CRS has already done much of its work, though this piece focuses on immigration.
 See generally Dan Goodley, Dis/ability Studies: Theorizing Disablism and Ableism (2014).
 Critical race studies examines how the law has created racial categories and used those categories to oppress people of color. See Derrick A. Bell, Jr., Brown v. Board of Education and the Interest-Convergence Dilemma, 93 Harv. L. Rev. 518, 522–23 (1980) (examining, in part, the limited gains of the Brown decision as a result of the unwillingness of white people to cede institutional power) [hereinafter Bell, Brown v. Board]; Derrick A. Bell, Who's Afraid of Critical Race Theory?, 1995 U. Ill. L. Rev. 893, 898–908 (1995) (describing critical race theory and the debates around it).
 See Arlene S. Kanter, The Law: What’s Disability Studies Got to Do With It or an Introduction to Disability Legal Studies, 42 Colum. Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 403 (2011) (calling for an integration of the emerging field of Disability Studies, which critically examines the role of “normalcy” in society, into the new area of disability legal studies); see also Sagit Mor, Between Charity, Welfare, and Warfare: A Disability Legal Studies Analysis of Privilege and Neglect in Israeli Disability Policy, 18 Yale J.L. & Human. 63 (2006).
 Feminist legal studies critically examines how the law has subjugated women. See generally Feminist Legal Theory: An Anti-Essentialist Reader (Nancy E. Dowd & Michelle S. Jacobs eds., 2003); Mary Joe Frug, Postmodern Legal Feminism 128 (1992).
 Subini Ancy Annamma et al., Dis/ability Critical Race Studies (DisCrit): Theorizing at the Intersections of Race and Dis/ability, 16 Race, Ethnicity & Educ. 1 (2013) (combining “aspects of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Disability Studies (DS) to propose a new theoretical framework that incorporates a dual analysis of race in disability: Dis/ability Critical Race Studies, or DisCrit” in their analysis of education policy).
 Rachel E. Moran & Devon Carbado, Race Law Stories (2008).
 Kanter, supra note 14.
 Adam Newman, Introducing Black Disability Studies: A Modest Beginning, Disability Stud. Q. (2012) (reviewing Blackness and Disability (Christopher M. Bell ed., 2011)). Disability studies and activism have also been popularly critiqued as being “white disability studies” by the hashtag movement #DisabilityTooWhite. See Sarah Blahovec, Confronting the Whitewashing of Disability: Interview with #DisabilityTooWhite Creator Vilissa Thompson, HuffPost (June 28, 2018, 10:05 AM), https://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarah-blahovec/confronting-the-whitewash_b_10574994.html.
 Patty Berne, Disability Justice, Sins Invalid (June 10, 2015), http://sinsinvalid.org/blog/disability-justice-a-working-draft-by-patty-berne.
 In her interview, Crenshaw stated,
Intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects. . . . We try to take ideas and make them into hands-on tools that advocates and communities can use. . . . We work directly with advocates and communities to develop ways they can better see these problems and better intervene in advocacy.
Kimberlé Crenshaw on Intersectionality, More Than Two Decades Later, Colum. L. Sch. (June 8, 2017), https://www.law.columbia.edu/pt-br/news/2017/06/kimberle-crenshaw-intersectionality.
 See Bell, Brown v. Board, supra note 13.
 Scott Neuman & John Burnett, 10-Year-Old Girl Is Detained by Border Patrol After Emergency Surgery, NPR: Two-Way (Oct. 26, 2017, 5:07 AM), https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/10/26/560149316/10-year-old-girl-is-detained-by-ice-officers-after-emergency-surgery.
 Studies that chart the prevalence or onset of disability through a health lens are problematic for various reasons, including that they view disability through a deficit lens. See Jasso et al., supra note 10; see also Christine Fountain & Peter Bearman, Risk as Social Context: Immigration Policy and Autism in California, 26 Soc. F. 215 (2011) (exploring connections between immigration policies and the rates of Autism in Latinx and immigrant communities to explain “the dramatic increase in autism diagnoses in recent years”). Though these types of studies are not rooted in disability studies theories, they do reflect how the majority of Latinx communities conceptualize and interact with disability and thus describe the inequities to basic diagnostics and treatments that the Latinx community confronts.
 See Immigrants and Refugees With Disabilities (Sign-on Letter), Nat’l Coalition for Latinxs With Disabilities, www.latinxdisabilitycoalition.com/immigrants-and-refugees-with-disabilities.html.
 Conchita Legoretta Hernandez, Lisette Torres-Gerald & Katherine Perez, Presentation at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities: Intersectional Identities, Inclusion and Belonging: Research and the Disabled Latinx Community (Nov. 18, 2018).
 Press Release, Ctr. Disease Ctrl. & Prevention, CDC: 1 in 4 U.S. Adults Live With a Disability (Aug. 16, 2018), https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p0816-disability.html.
 This includes the Americans with Disabilities Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.