Over the last several decades, the United States has relied immensely on carceral institutions to enforce immigration law. From standard federal penitentiaries to converted motels, multiple divisions within the federal government utilize incarceration to regulate the movement of migrants. More recently, non-institutional carceral technologies such as electronic monitoring have been added to the federal government’s immigration policing arsenal. At times, substantive legal decisions and law-enforcement practices are premised on a migrant’s identification as a criminal. At other times, the act of policing symbolically marks migrants as criminal. Regardless, suspected or confirmed criminality becomes the basis upon which carceral technologies are deployed.
The modern immigration prison network in the United States was born of political opportunism inflected with racism and, in recent years, has become an important source of revenue for private prison corporations. Tapping history, legal analysis, and philosophy, Closing Immigration Prisons, Defending Criminals posits that the history and present-day reality of immigration imprisonment in the United States is enormously costly, ethically dubious, and subverts the very rule of law that it ostensibly promotes. As such, instead of using the criminal justice system to identify people to imprison and deport, as the United States has done for decades, the federal government should place a reimagined sense of citizenship and solidarity at the center of immigration policy.
César publishes crimmigration.com, a blog about the convergence of criminal and immigration law. He has been a Fulbright scholar in Slovenia and served two terms on the American Bar Association Commission on Immigration.