MIGRATING TO PRISON by Cesar Cuauhtémoc García Hernández


America's Obsession With Locking Up Immigrants
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A chilling, timely overview of the American tendency to first exploit and then criminalize migrants.

Immigration lawyer García Hernández (Law/Univ. of Denver; Crimmigration Law, 2017) balances current controversies and historical perspective to heart-rending effect, capturing the militarized cruelty and ultimate futility at the core of anti-migrant policing, as embodied by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and what he terms today’s “Immigration Prison Archipelago.” Noting how political approaches have fluctuated wildly, he wonders, “how did we go from effectively abolishing immigration imprisonment during the 1950s and 1960s to today’s pattern of locking up half a million people annually?” The author concludes that with migrants easily demonized, policymaking has not kept pace with the pernicious nature of bigotry: “The rules that determine who gets locked up and who doesn’t are a legal labyrinth.” Yet, although arbitrary cruelty was enshrined in public attitudes as far back as anti-Chinese legislation in the 19th century, the economic and cultural centrality of migration to the national interest was also recognized. As the author notes, “for most of U.S. history, second chances were built into immigration law. Most of the time, crime was irrelevant to a person’s ability to make a life here.” This began to change in the 1980s, as state and federal lawmakers expanded the range of deportable offenses and limited judicial discretion. Often, such anti-migrant policies were hidden within politically popular “tough on crime” bills. Detention became more aggressively mandated due to the archaic legal principle known as the “entry fiction,” which made “the immigration detention center [into] an in-between space in law.” All this has fed the current simmering boondoggle, where even migrants with military service or clear community ties may be swept up in raids. The profit motive pursued by private prison corporations and the fearmongering of right-wing commentators make the issue seem intractable. García Hernández counters pessimism with in-depth research and measured, passionate argument.

An effective jeremiad on a key moral controversy of the Trump era.

ISBN: 978-1-62097-420-9
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: The New Press
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