Guest post by Jesse Acevedo, Postdoctoral Research Associate, USC Gould School of Law.

Fear of immigration has contributed to the political success of nationalist campaigns such as the presidential election victory of Donald Trump in the United States and the Brexit Referendum in the United Kingdom. But even prior to these electoral victories, these two countries had been exercising increasing control over migration movements. Given the dramatic rise of new restrictionist sentiments and policies in major destination countries around the world, understanding immigration detention as a major tool of immigration enforcement is now more important than ever.

Since the 1990s, the United States has passed laws and implemented policies that have increased the numbers of noncitizens in immigration detention. The total number who entered Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities more than doubled from 200,000 in 2001 to over 440,000 in 2013. ICE has contracted with hundreds of local jails and private detention corporations to house detainees. Issues such as lack of due process and legal representation, family detention, criminalization of immigrants, and the experiences of detainees in the U.S. legal system, have been the focus of a nascent but growing body of research in the United States (see work by Chacón, Eagly and Shafer, Gilman, Ryo, and Stumpf).

A similar trajectory of increasing control over migration can also be found in the United Kingdom. Since 2006, the British government has passed a series of pieces of legislation that expanded the power to detain and deport foreign nationals. Following the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act of 2009, immigrants in the United Kingdom found their legal status weakened and faced greater difficulties in acquiring full British citizenship. Furthermore, the UK holds the largest number of immigrant detainees in Europe with more than 3500 people at any given moment. Despite the scale of immigration detention globally, surprisingly little independent academic research has been conducted inside these sites, as governments guard research access to them jealously. 

Such matters form the context of the upcoming workshop, Immigration Detention in the Age of Migration Control, which will be held at University of Southern California Gould School of Law, Los Angeles, CA on Friday April 7th. This event, for which places still remain, will highlight cutting-edge research and litigation on immigration detention in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and other destination countries.

The workshop is unique in two key respects. First, scholars and legal advocates are rarely ever in the same room together, although collaboration between them is critical to advancing meaningful research and legal advocacy. This workshop will bring together both scholars and legal advocates to facilitate a rare interdisciplinary dialogue aimed at key-policy relevant issues on immigration detention. Second, while the rise of restrictionist policies is a global phenomenon, scholars and legal advocates do not typically engage in conversations across national boundaries. This workshop offers precisely such a platform by hosting scholars and legal advocates from the United States, Canada, and Europe. In short, the workshop offers a rare opportunity to participate in an interdisciplinary, international dialogue on issues related to immigration detention.

As states turn to ever more restrictionist approaches to managing migration, and, just as importantly, they share ideas of policy and best practice, it is crucial that those of us concerned with such matters find ways to work together.  We need this collaboration not only for the exchange of ideas, but also to recharge and re-energise. Working on immigration detention is emotionally, legally and practically very challenging.  All of these matters will be under discussion at the April Workshop. Please come and join us. Sign up here:

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How to cite this blog post (Harvard style)

Acevedo, J. (2017) Immigration Detention in an Age of Migration Control: Overview and Invitation to a Workshop. Available at: (Accessed [date]).